Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama’s (HMMA) $388 million new engine plant and boosted SUV production are moves to position the South Korean automaker’s Montgomery plant as a key component of its global innovation efforts.
On its own as an economic development project, the 260,000-square-foot engine plant and the 50 new jobs would be remarkable. But officials said it’s more than that.
“This facility really is positioning itself for the future with this investment,” said Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield. “This is about technology. This is about taking a facility that’s been around for a couple of decades and really taking it and launching it into the next 20, 25, 30 years of productivity and ingenuity and technology.”
With Tuesday’s announcement of the engine plant and today’s launch of the new Santa Fe SUV, HMMA is demonstrating its competitiveness and viability, Robert Burns, HMMA public relations director said.
“We’re going to feel like we have a good product mix – Sonata, Elantra, Santa Fe – to meet the market demand in the U.S. and Canada as well as Mexico,” he said.
Burns said more than 80,000 new Santa Fes will be produced the rest of this year with a goal of producing more than 100,000 in 2019. Santa Fes will make up about 40 percent of the production at the plant while the Sonata and Elantra sedans will each make up around 30 percent, he said.
The engine plant will produce 700,000 engines annually for vehicles at both HMMA and those at the sister Kia plant in Georgia.
“It’s important to point out that this engine machining line that’s being built is freeing up that space we need in the assembly plant that we have right now,” Burns said. “Because of the new process, we need more assembly line space to do that part of the process.”
The new engines are expected to be more efficient with better fuel economy, but little else is being revealed.
Canfield said Hyundai is showing its ability to respond to customer demand, a flexibility the automaker is known for throughout the world.
“A plant like this could just sit here and continue to do the things that it does well,” he said. “This is the next stage of innovation technology that happens to evolve around engines and the power plant as well as other technology that will be developed not only for the Kia line but also the Hyundai line here at home.”
It positions Hyundai’s Alabama plant as a linchpin for the company’s growth.
“This investment really plants that flag for a long time to come,” Canfield said.