Hyundai to Build Popular Santa Fe SUV at Kia Plant in Georgia

Hyundai Santa Fe SUV Moves to Kia Plant in Georgia
Hyundai Santa Fe SUV Moves to Kia Plant in Georgia

Korean automaker Hyundai Motor will begin building its popular Santa Fe sports utility vehicle at a Kia Motors plant in Georgia in late September, Hyundai said Tuesday.

The move will add a second vehicle to the production line at the West Point, Ga., plant, which currently builds the similarly sized Kia Sorrento SUV. The automakers, sister companies, are part of Hyundai Kia Automotive Group. The plant will also add a second shift beginning Oct. 1, and the number of workers is expected to grow to 7,000, including local suppliers, from 1,900.

Hyundai is shifting production of the Santa Fe to Georgia from its plant in Montgomery, Ala., to keep up with demand. The Alabama plant also builds the recently revised Sonata, and Hyundai will use the capacity the move frees up there to keep up with demand for the popular midsized sedan. The venue change also coincides with the introduction of the 2011 model year Santa Fe.

Despite the flagging economy and weak demand for new vehicles, Hyundai's sales have been stellar in recent months. In July, the company reported it sold some 54,000 vehicles in the U.S., its second-best sales month on record. Through July, Hyundai has sold 310,000 cars in the U.S. in 2010, a 24% improvement compared to the same period a year ago. (Automakers, including Hyundai and Kia, are set to report U.S. sales figures for August on Wednesday.)

Kia's Georgia plant opened in November, and has capacity to build 300,000 vehicles a year. Hyundai's Alabama plant opened in 2005. The two plants are among several new facilities built by Asian automakers in recent years in the American South, such as Honda Motor's (HMC) plant in Lincoln, Ala., which opened in 2001, and a Toyota Motor (TM) plant in Blue Springs, Miss., that is slated to open in fall 2011.