BEIJING – Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. transforms an aging, low-tech truck plant here into a cornerstone of expansion into China – not to mention a tourist attraction.

Each year, some 60,000 people tour the former Beijing Automobile Investment Co. Ltd. plant taken over by Hyundai four years ago and turned into one of the South Korean auto maker’s most modern facilities.

It’s been a slow, calculated ramp up, but the 2.4 million sq.-ft. (220,000-sq.-m) factory now is producing 300,000 vehicles annually. Construction has begun on a nearby sister plant that is expected to double annual capacity to 600,000 units by 2010. It will launch production in 2008.

It took only seven months after signing the joint-venture deal with Beijing Automobile in 2002 for Hyundai to gut most of the existing buildings and install state-of-the art presses and automated body assembly and paint lines. That year, Beijing Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. built 1,046 Sonatas.

In 2005, the plant produced 230,688 vehicles, including the Sonata (47,175), Elantra (173,756), Tucson (9,754) and Accent (3).

This year, the Accent – in its first full year of production – will account for 37,600 units, and the MC hatchback will add another 36,300, BHMC says.

The plant's body assembly shop has 360 robots on two lines, capable of simultaneously producing five models. A state-of-the-art paint shop can supply 22 colors in a sequenced mix. The continuous final assembly line is 0.6 miles (1 km) long, arranged in seven equal side-by-side segments. Every vehicle is test driven on the plant’s 0.9-mile (1.5-km) test track.

A 248,000-sq.-ft. (23,000-sq.-m) facility produces 300,000 Hyundai Alpha, Beta and Delta engines annually. BHMC also imports Theta 2.0L and 2.4L engines for the new Sonata.

A new 334,000-sq.-ft. (31,000-sq.-m) engine plant is slated to begin production next year and will add annual capacity for another 200,000 mills.

Last year, BHMC sold 233,668 vehicles for a 7.5% share of the Chinese market. Through October this year, the auto maker's sales totaled 234,236.