Alabama Raises Hand as Audi Says US Factory
by, 07-12-2011 at 01:26 PM (5187 Views)
Hot on the heels of the Automotive News story about a potential American Audi factory come several pieces by pro-Alabama publications suggesting 'Bama may be prime country for an Audi facility. One of the more informative pieces from AL.com particularly grabbed our attention.
As it turns out, Audi sister brand Volkswagen seriously considered a location in Huntsville, AL before choosing its current Chattanooga location. According to the article, Huntsville was a close second and likely only lost out because Alabama was unable to match the reported $577.4 Million in incentives that Volkswagen received from Tennessee.
Even further back, Audi considered Alabama in an earlier investigation process for a North American venture back in the 1990s, one that would have made them effective neighbors of aftermarket company APR because it had focused on a 1300 acre plot in the Northeast Opelika Industrial Park. Audi decided against such a move at the time, but the story in question and many like it are hoping executives in Ingolstadt will reconsider Alabama this second time around.
Nowadays, Opelika is likely out of the picture. The actual spot considered by Audi back then is currently utilized by several suppliers to Hyundai and Kia's nearby plant. According to the story, the region is likely out too because manufacturers tend not to compete for workers in the same labor pool.
Still, the proximity of OE suppliers is a very important factor. This alone could make the Chattanooga region more attractive for Audi managers, but then again many OEs already supply plants in Alabama operated by Mercedes-Benz, Toyota, Honda and Hyundai.
Another factor not included in the story is that of customer delivery. In a separate discussion with Audi CEO Rupert Stadler during the Detroit Auto Show and on the subject of a US plant, we specifically inquired whether a delivery center might be part of the project. The experience of delivery is a key part of the process at Audi's two main plants in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm, Germany. Stadler indicated to us that the likelihood of such a component was quite probable.
While delivery may not be as important as state-sponsored incentives, proximity to locations that are consistent with the needs of Audi clientele will be important if Audi chooses to make more use of a domestic delivery facility like the Audi Forums in Ingolstadt and Neckarsulm. Northern Alabama is a quick commute to Atlanta and not far from a key race (Petit Le Mans) in which Audi currently competes every year. Porsche also recently chose the Atlanta area for its own domestic headquarters / customer facility and track.
Could the experience factor play a role in decision-making? At this point this all remains unclear. Also, it's important to note that the Automotive News story is based on a quote during a discussion (official or otherwise) by Stadler and not an official announcement by Audi or its chief executive. Whether mountain or mole hill, it would seem the story of an Audi factory in America is now heaving through the clouds. Where it goes officially remains to be seen.
Read more about the Alabama case after the jump.