Lee Jin-man, Associated Press
FILE - In this Oct. 26, 2016 file photo, the logo of Hyundai Motor Co. is displayed at the automaker's showroom in Seoul, South Korea. U.S. safety regulators are investigating complaints that the front passenger seat belts can fail in about 313,000 Hyundai midsize cars. The investigation posted Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2017, by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration covers the Hyundai Sonata from the 2013 model year. (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

TUCALOOSA, Ala. — The state's automotive industry had a recording-breaking year in 2016, according to figures released by the Alabama Department of Commerce.

Greg Canfield, the department's secretary, said last week that the factories operated by Honda, Hyundai and Mercedes-Benz combined to produce at least 1,048,597 vehicles last year.

Canfield said Hyundai likely led the way with 379,021 cars and SUVs manufactured in its Montgomery plant. Honda estimated 369,576 vehicles produced in Talladega County, and Mercedes said it reached its annual stated capacity of 300,000 vehicles in Tuscaloosa County, with more exact year-end numbers to be released later this year.

Canfield said the numbers represent at least a 1.4 percent increase over production in 2015, the first year the three automakers combined to manufacture more than a million vehicles.

"Alabama's auto industry continues to be a powerful force for the companies that have planted deep roots here, as well as for the skilled, dedicated workers of our state," Canfield said. "There's also a robust pipeline of new automotive jobs, investments and products, so we expect production to remain strong in the years to come."

Dara Longgrear, the executive director of the Tuscaloosa County Industrial Development Authority, echoed Canfield's optimism about the bright future of the industry, both in Tuscaloosa and statewide.

Longgrear said that while sedan production has plateaued, albeit at record highs, production of sport utility vehicles such as those assembled at the Mercedes facility in Vance continues to grow. With that growth comes expansions, new suppliers and more jobs.

"There isn't any comparison to the auto industry in terms of the ripple effects it creates," Longgrear said. "And we're fortunate to have the premier automaker here in Tuscaloosa County."

Longgrear also said advancement in new propulsion systems, driverless car technology and electronics both under the hood and inside the car promise a strong future for the industry.

"It was yet another very successful and record-breaking year for Alabama's automotive industry, which continued to grow and add thousands of jobs in 2016," said Steve Sewell, executive vice president of the Economic Development Partnership of Alabama. "In addition to the great impact the industry has on our economy, the state's automotive companies continue to bring positive recognition to Alabama, our workforce and climate for business."

Information from: The Tuscaloosa News, http://www.tuscaloosanews.com