Mercedes, Toyota Halt Production in Alabama as Tornado Cleanup Continues

The violent storms that moved through much of the Deep South on Wednesday have brought production to a halt at Toyota and Mercedes-Benz plants in Alabama.

Tuscaloosa, Alabama was especially hard hit as a mile-wide tornado caused wide-spread destruction. Tuscaloosa is home to the Mercedes-Benz U.S. International auto-assembly plant where the German automaker builds GL, M and R class autos for sale in the North American market.

An unknown number of automotive parts suppliers and related businesses were also damaged as the violent storm cell spawned multiple tornados along a 300-mile path that stretched as far north as Virginia.

A spokesperson for Mercedes told the Tuscaloosa News that operations at the plant had been suspended because the storms and related cleanup efforts had kept suppliers from the region from delivering parts. In many parts of the South, highways are still littered with downed trees and debris and a number of highway exit ramps remain closed due to storm damage.

The spokesperson said that production at the Tuscaloosa facilities would likely not resume until after Friday at the earliest.

In Huntsville, Alabama the same storm cell downed utility lines and brought production to a standstill at Toyota’s U.S. engine plant. According to Toyota spokesman Mike Gross, the facility lost power on Wednesday night. He said power may not be restored to the plant until after this weekend. Gross said that damage to cell phone towers in the area have also snarled communications.

Toyota’s Huntsville facilities produce V-6 and V-8 engines for the Sequoia SUV and Tacoma and Tundra pickup trucks.

Wednesday’s severe weather resulted in more than 200 deaths in five states and the National Weather Service received reports of 137 tornados from across the region. Today, President Obama has declared Alabama a federal disaster area.

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama Incorporated, located in Montgomery, Alabama and Honda of Alabama Manufacturing located in Lincoln, Alabama both reported that they had sustained no direct damage to their facilities.

“We are currently evaluating the impact on suppliers across Alabama, including those well south and well north of us,” said Honda spokesman Ted Pratt. According to Hyundai spokesman, Robert Burns, suppliers for the Montgomery plant had also escaped damage.

Countless auto dealers throughout the affected region sustained wind and hail damage.

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