HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — The Alabama Automobile Manufacturers Association held its annual Supplier Diversity Conference in Huntsville on Thursday. The event promotes inclusion in a rapidly evolving automotive industry, bringing together manufacturers, suppliers and infrastructure professionals to discuss the future of electric vehicles in Alabama.
“We’re moving from internal combustion engines to a more electrified platform, and that creates opportunities for everyone,” said Larry Deutscher, general manager of manufacturing at Toyota Motor Manufacturing Alabama.
According to the Alabama Department of Commerce, the state ranks in the top five in the nation in automobile manufacturing, with a production capacity of more than 1.3 million vehicles per year. The sector employs nearly 50,000 Alabamians in factories run by Mercedes-Benz, Honda, Hyundai and Toyota.
“With this enormous manufacturing potential, we need to be ready,” Deutscher said. “We have to embrace change.”
Lydia Irby, group manager of human resources and administration at Toyota Mississippi, said diversity in manufacturing creates a stronger process. She said she was working to provide an extra seat at the table.
“Any time we can get more perspective, more ideas, it ultimately makes for a better project and not just for developing the process but also for adapting the process,” Irby said.
With current growth, state officials are ensuring minority providers are represented.
“My perspective here is to make sure there are opportunities to participate in and grow the infrastructure that the governor has put in place here in the state of Alabama,” said Stacia Robinson, director of the Alabama Office of Minority Affairs.
Additionally, industry leaders are working to open access to electric vehicles to all Alabamians.
“It’s about being intentional and making sure that in every community, opportunities are created for people to purchase these products and these goods and services,” said Chris Lewis, vice president of development and the company’s commitment to the Automotive Industry Action Group.
Several Alabama-based manufacturing plants have begun producing electric vehicles, and the state continues to install federally funded electric vehicle charging stations in counties that previously did not have them. Industry executives say they are looking to the future.
“These people who are going to make these changes are in our K-12 classrooms right now, so how can we engage their understanding of the roots and spark that imagination and desire to be part of the solution here in North America” , Deutscher said. .
Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle began Thursday’s event by highlighting the city’s opportunity to be at the forefront of electric vehicle manufacturing, sharing a similar message to Gov. Kay Ivey when she attended the conference last year.
Suggest a correction