Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia

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It’s not everyday you have the chance to visit a brand spanking new automotive assembly plant, but the new Kia plant in western Georgia (USA, not Eastern Europe) makes Kia latest “transplant” to build new vehicles in the States. Kia began producing the all-new 2011 Kia Sorento in small volumes in fall 2009, right on schedule. Full production begins in mid-November.
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Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG) is a 300,000 unit capacity assembly plant situated along Interstate 85 in western Georgia adjacent to the Alabama border. Its location is about 85-miles east up the 85 from the Hyundai assembly plant in Montgomery, Alabama. Surrounding and between the plants are suppliers providing components not only to the Kia and Hyundai plants in the area but some also produce components for Honda, Mercedes, and Nissan plants in Alabama and Mississippi.


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Over the past few years, Georgia has lost two large domestic plants around Atlanta – the GM plant in Doraville that last assembled the GM U-Vans – Chevrolet Venture, Pontiac TranSport, Oldsmobile Silhouette and Buick Terraza – the Ford Atlanta Assembly plant (one of Ford’s highest quality plants) assembled Taurus and Sable. With the American manufacturers out of the state and western Georgia suffering from high unemployment due to the collapse of the local textile industry, Georgia felt it was a worthwhile investment to entice Kia to build its new $1 billion assembly plant in West Point.
The State of Georgia was able to amass 2,259 acres of farm land adjacent to I-85, convincing 34 families to sell their land at fair market prices. There was no condemning of the land as has been necessary at some greenfield plant sites. The plant pad itself sits on 650 acres of the site.
Georgia investments were substantial including acquiring the land, providing freeway exits, access roads and a railroad spur. Additionally, Georgia funded and operates with Georgia Quick Start a $20-million 60,000 square foot training facility on the property designed to train Kia employees to world class standards. In addition to direct employment at the plant, the State estimates that up to 10,000 additional jobs will be created and $4-billion in revenues per year will be generated.
Given the high unemployment in the arrea, Kia received more than 43,000 applications for jobs during the 30-days the applications were open. At the time we toured the plant in late October, 2009 the plant had about 1,200 workers. The total workforce, when additional shifts and additional products are added will be 2,600 to 3,000 workers.
What Products Yield 300,000 Units?
Add Santa Fe to KMMG Of couse, the first product produced at KMMG cannot generate 300,000 unit sales per year itself. While Kia is proud that KMMG is a “Kia” plant, it appears that the second vehicle to go into production at the site in September 2010 will be the Hyundai Santa Fe and Santa Fe L (a replacement for the slow-selling Hyundai Veracruz crossover SUV). Sharing the same platform as the Sorento, the Santa Fe plan makes sense.
Borrego Goes Crossover Strategy: But even with Santa Fe added to the plant, it likely won’t get up to 300,000 units, so what else could be added. A logical choice would be the next generation Kia Borrego. Today, Borrego is a traditional 7-passenger SUV based on a rear wheel drive body-on-frame platform. Kia could abandon body-on-frame altogether and shift Borrego to be a larger derivative of the Sorento (much like the Santa Fe L is to the Santa Fe).
Put Portico in KMMG? There was some discussion that the Hyundai Portico may be the logical vehicles to put into the plant, but Portico is based off the Kia Sedona minivan and not so easy to share in a plant devoted to the Sorento/Santa Fe platform.
Put Tucson/Sportage in KMMG? Of course, both Kia and Hyundai have popular compact crossover SUVs smaller than the Sorento and Santa Fe. It might be more likely for these to be added to KMMG than the Portico, but their volume likely would push KMMG to its capacity limit. So, it appears the most likely strategy would be to add Borrego to the mix in late 2013.

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