Hyundai said today it plans to add the Santa Fe Sport SUV to the production line-up at its Alabama plant, diversifying the product mix at a facility that turns out the automaker’s top-selling U.S. sedans.
Hyundai will invest $52 million to begin producing the Santa Fe Sport at the Montgomery manufacturing facility, where Sonata and Elantra sedans are now made. Production of the Santa Fe Sport will begin this summer.
“We’re very happy Hyundai has been able to make this change, which will result in more great Santa Fe crossovers available to our dealers and customers,” said Dave Zuchowski, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor America. “The new production will help us meet the growing demand for one of our most popular products.”
The Santa Fe will continue to made at the West Point, Georgia, facility of Kia, a Hyundai affiliate, but the move represents a homecoming for the SUV. The Alabama plant produced the Santa Fe between 2005 and 2010, when output was transferred to Kia.
Hyundai officials said the move will give the $1.8 billion Alabama plant greater flexibility to shift product mix to meet market demands. In 2015, the plant produced slightly more than 384,500 vehicles, just under its capacity of 400,000 annually.
“We’re thrilled to bring back another pillar of the Hyundai lineup to our production mix here at HMMA,” said Chris Susock, vice president of production at the Montgomery plant. “We’ve been extremely proud to build both Sonata and Elantra on our assembly line for Hyundai in the U.S., and we will continue our tradition of quality and productivity with the addition of the Santa Fe Sport in 2016.”
To launch production this summer, the Alabama the plant will soon begin coordinating retooling, robot programming and other logistical projects. Production targets for Sonata, Elantra and Santa Fe Sport in 2016 will be determined at a later date.
“Automotive manufacturing is an important industry in Alabama, and Hyundai Motor Manufacturing is one of our most successful automotive manufacturers,” Governor Robert Bentley said. “Today’s news is good economic news for the River Region and the entire state of Alabama. By 2016, the Hyundai Santa Fe will be proudly ‘Made in Alabama’ and sold around the world.”
Greg Canfield, secretary of the Alabama Department of Commerce, said the return of Santa Fe production is a positive sign for the Montgomery manufacturing plant, where assembly of the Sonata sedan began in 2005.
“Over the past decade, Hyundai’s Alabama assembly plant has proven itself as one of the industry’s most innovative and productive manufacturing centers,” Canfield said. “Hyundai’s decision to add the Santa Fe Sport SUV to the production line-up in Montgomery shows the confidence that the automaker has in its Alabama facility and the workforce there.”
Hyundai recently produced its 3 millionth vehicle in Alabama, and it began producing a redesigned 2017 Elantra last month after it made a U.S. debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show in November.
The Montgomery facility has an annual economic impact approaching $5 billion, according to an analysis by an Auburn University at Montgomery researcher released in August.