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Friday, 29 April 2011 21:28

South regroups after killer storms

Automotive News Southern Bureau Chief Lindsay Chappell writes that tornadoes last week caused hundreds of deaths, destroyed communities and snarled operations at automotive businesses across several Southern states.

On Friday, April 29, industry sources in Alabama said companies still were coping with widespread power outages and humanitarian concerns. Repeated efforts to reach suppliers and auto dealerships in the path of Wednesday’s destructive storms were unsuccessful, complicated by downed telephone lines, toppled cell towers and a lack of electricity.

“I haven’t been able to get through to any of our dealers north of Birmingham,” said Tom Dart, president of the 300-member Alabama Automobile Dealers Association in Montgomery.

An estimated 1 million people in Alabama were without power Friday morning, interrupting business for companies, including Toyota Motor Corp.’s engine plant in Huntsville.

The power loss shut down the Huntsville plant on Wednesday through the weekend, curtailing output of engines for the Tundra and Tacoma pickups and the Sequoia SUV. Utility officials in the state said power could be out for up to a week in some areas of the state.

In Vance, Ala., 150 miles to the south, winds of up to 100 miles an hour in advance of the more destructive tornadoes caused light damage to Mercedes-Benz U.S. International Inc., which builds the Mercedes M-, R- and GL-class vehicles. The damage did not affect the plant’s operating capability, says spokeswoman Felyicia Jerald. But the plant closed on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday because of supply chain difficulties.

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