Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman must love to gloat. At the groundbreaking of Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd.'s first U.S. plant in Montgomery, AL, in mid-April the governor couldn't contain his excitement.

“When we break ground today, that crunching sound will be heard from Atlanta to Detroit,” says Siegelman.

Hyundai's choice of Alabama for its $1 billion plant is another coup for the state which, though relatively new to the automotive game, has come on strong in the last four years, winning major plant deals from Mercedes-Benz, Honda Motor Co. Ltd. and Toyota Motor Corp. With Hyundai, Alabama will serve as home to four of the top seven auto makers in the world — which Siegelman points out is one more than Detroit has.

Montgomery beat out Kentucky by offering more than $250 million in incentives. The plant, opening in 2005, will include engine manufacturing and stamping facilities as well as assembly capability, says Moo Koo Chung, chairman of Hyundai Automotive Group.