County a key player in state’s automotive sectorPublished 9:14am Thursday, March 28, 2013
Many of Dallas County’s residents may be under the impression that this area can’t compare to cities like Birmingham, Prattville or Montgomery when it comes to the automotive industry — but they couldn’t be more wrong.
Dallas County can boast several supporting players in the automotive industry, including Honda Lock and Hanil E Hwa.
“We are getting ready to celebrate 25 years here in Selma, Ala. It’s a huge, huge thing,” Loren Allday, human resource manager for Honda Lock said. “And a lot of people don’t even realize we’re here, because we’re kind of a quiet business.”
Honda Lock is a tier one supplier to Honda.
“We’re actually owned by Honda of Japan, and we supply to all of Honda of America. What we supply are all the locks and key sets for all of North America, which means every Honda you see driving out there, we’ve made the locks and key sets here in Selma, Ala.,” Allday said. “We’re pretty important as far as Honda’s concerned. They can’t put the car together without having our product. We’re high on their radar, and it’s always key that we have our product to them on a timely basis so that they can complete the assembly of the vehicles. We supply to all Honda manufacturing plants in North America.”
Honda Lock in Selma used to be All Lock several years ago, Allday said, noting that All Lock did stamping and keys for the big three — Chrystler, General Motors and Ford.
“Back in the 1980s Honda was looking for a lock and key set, vertical operation that they could just kind of joint venture with, because back in the 1980s a lot of automobiles were still being made overseas. And they were finding out that it’s cheaper to just build plants in America instead of building them overseas and then having to ship them over, which made them super expensive,” Allday said. “They started looking for different assembly plants’ locations. And since All Lock was already a lock and key set stamping business, they did a joint venture.”
In 1988 Honda had a joint venture with All Lock and it became Honda All Lock for a period of time, and the plant did the work for both — they did the big three and then they also did Honda, Allday said.
Almost ten years later, Honda discontinued the joint venture and became 100 percent owned by Honda Lock of Japan in 1997, meaning it strictly became Honda Lock and the plant in Selma became a tier one supplier to all Honda’s in North America.
“There are Honda Locks’ all over the world,” Allday said, noting that the United States has two other plants outside of Selma. “[But] every Honda you see — either you own one or you know someone who does — has the locks, key sets, glove box locks, door locks that came from this plant in Selma. There is no other plant in the U.S. that does what we do, and we are very high on Honda’s radar because of this.”
Honda Lock could be one of Selma’s unsung heroes, creating a product here in town that is shipped out and is literally driving all over the world. Especially with a work force that employees approximately 300 associates and is continuing to grow.
And Allday said she completely disagrees with the idea that Montgomery or Prattville are ahead of Selma in the automotive game adding the majority of their managers are actually from those areas and have to travel here to Selma each day.
“So we actually pull people out of those areas to work for us,” she said.
And even though Allday said not many people in Dallas County seem to be aware that Honda Lock is there, let alone their impact, she said the company is very civic minded and the company always seeks ways to get involved with the community.
“We are very community and civic oriented. We like to get involved when it comes to education, health and nutrition and just give back to the community,” she said, listing “Reach out and Read,” a reading program coordinated through the pediatricians office, elementary school tutoring and Boosting Engineering Science and Technology or BEST Robotics program as ways their employees take part in the community.
Hanil E Hwa
Hanil E Hwa is another successful part of Selma’s automotive industry.
“We are a tier one parts supplier for Hyundai,” Manager of Human Resources and Administration Ryan Price said of Selma’s Hanil E Hwa. “We build the interior door panels for the Hyundai Sonata and Elantra, as well as some other interior fixtures.”
A tier one supplier is a supplier who sends products directly to the company, in this case Hyundai, Price explained.
There are three tiers, classified as level one, two or three suppliers, who earn their classification based on which part of the assembly the parts fall into.
“A tier two supplier is somebody who would make a part and delivers it to us then we add to our process and deliver it to Hyundai,” Price said.
Hanil E Hwa has more than 200 full time employees and an additional 120 long term, temporary employees the company is looking to hire, Price said.
“So we’re at a little over 320 total head count right now,” he said, noting that 97 percent of the employees are from Selma and Dallas County. “We are a large private employer here in Selma.”
Creating interior door panels is not something most of Dallas County residents know about, much less that it is being done right here in Selma.
“Most of the people that we interview have no idea what we do, if anything it’s just that we do something for Hyundai,” Price said. “But I think there is some buzz about what we do and about the fact that we’re here.”
Hanil E Hwa is the sole provider for the Hyundai Sonata and Elantra in the U.S., Price said, meaning that pieces made in Selma are driving all across the country, “and in Canada and Mexico and Puerto Rico,” Price added.
Price said the company is really starting to educate their workforce on the extent of the impact they are making, not just in Selma but around the world.
“A lot of our employees know what we do at this plant. Some of them know that we also do the same in Georgia for Kia, but very few of them know exactly how large the impact is of Hanil E Hwa as a company,” he said. “We have plants in Brazil, Slovakia, Turkey, India, and of course Korea, so it really is a global company.”
A global company that is dependant on the role that Selma plays. Price said when comparing the huge global company to the small city of Selma, it creates a different sort of culture and gives the employees a different mind set.
“Part of what we’re doing to help develop the culture and changing the mind set is we send employees, every year we send them to the New York auto show, we send them to the Las Vegas auto show, the Detroit auto show. We send a group to Korea every year,” Price said. “To try and get them to understand that what you do here affects really the world. It’s that big that, what you do in your job everyday [here in Selma], affects how successful the company is in Korea.”
Price said while Hanil E Hwa is a global company, part of it is grounded here in Selma.
“We’re excited to be a part of this community, we’ve been accepted with open arms and we hope to continue to have a successful future, because I really think that we’re continuing to help the local economy. I think that we could be set up for future endeavors,” he said. “I think that it’s really a good area to pump money back into.”