Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield (left), Mazda Motor Corp. President and CEO Masamichi Kogai, Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey, Toyota Motor Corp. President Akio Toyoda, Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle, and Limestone County Commission Chairman Mark Yarbrough (right) celebrate the announcement of a joint Mazda-Toyota plant set to open in Huntsville in 2021.

Mazda and Toyota will open a joint-venture manufacturing plant in Huntsville, Alabama, about 14 miles from Toyota’s existing engine plant. Partners since 2015, Mazda and Toyota officials announced plans in 2017 to build the joint plant with targets of a 300,000-vehicle annual capacity and 4,000 jobs (paying up to $50,000 per year). Production is set to begin in 2021.

This will be Mazda’s only manufacturing presence in North America. Before 2012, the automaker made cars in Flat Rock, Michigan, via partnerships with Ford Motor Co. For several years, union auto workers made Mazda 6 sedans alongside Ford Mustang muscle cars. But that joint venture ended a few years after Ford sold its stake in Mazda.

“We hope that over time our plant will come to occupy a special place in the hearts of our employees and the local community. By making this plant a vibrant part of that community, we hope to work, learn, and grow together with the people of Alabama and Huntsville,” Mazda Motor Corp. President and CEO Masamichi Kogai says.

Production at the plant will split evenly between the companies, producing the Toyota Corolla compact car and an as-yet-unreleased crossover from Mazda. The two companies plan to split the $1.6 billion price equally.

Alabama’s history as an auto-producing region started in 1998 when Mercedes built a plant there. Honda followed a year later with a plant making larger vehicles such as Odyssey minivans. Toyota joined the Alabama auto industry in 2001 with an engine plant in Huntsville. In 2002, Hyundai opened a plant near Montgomery that makes cars, crossovers, and engines. The state produced more than 1 million cars in 2016.;

Ford to move Focus production to China

The next generation of Ford’s Focus will be made in China and imported to North America.

As part of a strategy to slash costs and boost profitability, Ford Motor Co. President and CEO Jim Hackett plans to build the next-generation Focus small car in China and import it to the United States. Automaker officials had previously announced plans to move Focus production from Michigan to Mexico.

The move to China is part of a $7 billion shift in resources from cars to trucks, sport utility vehicles, and advanced technologies. With car sales falling sharply in the U.S. for the past five years, Ford and other manufacturers are either cancelling models, as FCA US LLC has done with the Dodge Dart, or looking for ways to slash production costs.

“When you’re a long-lived company that has had success over multiple decades the decision to change is not easy – culturally or operationally,” Hackett says. “Ultimately, though, we must accept the virtues that brought us success over the past century are really no guarantee of future success.”

In addition to SUVs and crossovers, Ford is investing more heavily in electric cars and autonomous driving technology. Throughout the next five years, the automaker plans to launch 13 electric vehicles – an F-150 hybrid pickup, Mustang hybrid, Transit custom plug-in hybrid van, an autonomous vehicle hybrid, Ford Police Responder hybrid sedan, and an electric small SUV.