Driving In Dixie

We may still call Detroit “Motor City” but these days most of manufacturing and assembly activity in the car business is happening in a belt of southern states including Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and North and South Carolina.

Lured with generous land grants and local, state and federal incentives, over the last 20 years Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mercedes Benz, BMW, VW and Hyundai have prominently planted their flags in Dixie, establishing vast new high tech assembly and corporate operations. Beyond car companies French tire giant Michelin has a major installation in South Carolina, German performance wheel maker BBS is based in Georgia, while Mack Trucks world HQ is in Greensboro North Carolina.

The most salient attraction for these manufacturers has been a lower cost Southern workforce weened on anti-union right to work laws.

But the dramatic expansion of the auto industry in the South has made it a last stand opportunity for the United Auto Workers — already maneuvering to unionize a Nissan plant in Canton, Mississippi and the VW operations in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

This adds an entirely new dynamic to an economic force that has fundamentally changed American South.

George Polgar of GT Marketing for KYW Newsradio 1060