Auto-Parts Supplier Celebrates Grand Opening

Company and county leaders gathered Tuesday to celebrate the grand opening of the Fehrer Automotive plant in Gadsden.

Fehrer’s Gadsden location will be a Tier 1 supplier for the new Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tenn., as well as a supplier for the Mercedes plant in Tuscaloosa and some BMW models.

“I can’t say how proud we are to have this in Gadsden, Etowah County and the other municipalities,” said Gadsden Mayor Sherman Guyton, who in February announced the German company’s intention to locate in Gadsden.

Fehrer signed a long-term lease for the former Advance Auto Parts building on Brooke Avenue.

Its officials reportedly looked at other locations in Alabama and nearby states, but the Alabama Development Office and Gadsden City Council offered tax incentives to make competitive proposals for the company to locate in the city.

The nearby Interstate 59 corridor to Chattanooga and the existing facility also played a role in bringing Gadsden its newest corporate addition.

“More than just geography brought us to Gadsden,” Fehrer Automotive Chief Executive Officer Bernd Welzel said during Tuesday’s presentation.

The company will be making automotive seat pads for Volkswagen’s new mid-size sedan, as well as for the Mercedes 166 and BMW F25 programs, Plant Manager Roger Compton said.

Welzel said the company will mix its own chemicals and use tailor-made production facilities.

“This gives us a high level of flexibility and innovation,” Welzel said.

Headquartered in Kitzingen, Germany, Fehrer Automotive was founded in 1875. It has approximately 3,000 employees in 22 locations worldwide, including the United States, Europe, South Africa and India.

Production will begin in January, Welzel said.

Compton said the plant has about 26 workers on staff now and hiring has begun for some specific skilled labor positions.

More hiring will take place in November.

At full production, Compton said, the plant will employ 160 to 175 workers.

Production will begin running three shifts in January, but Compton said the facility will not be at full production capacity until the second quarter of 2011.

Guyton said he hopes to have a skilled work force trained through work-force development partnerships for any future expansions by Fehrer.

By Kendra Carter
Times Staff Writer