ATLANTA – Kia Motors Mfg. Georgia Inc. confirms it will begin producing the Santa Fe cross/utility vehicle for sister brand Hyundai at the auto maker’s assembly plant in West Point, GA.

However, that won’t deter Kia from its plans to add a second model of its own at West Point, company officials here tell Ward’s.

The plant, opened 10 months ago, currently is using less than a third of its 300,000-unit annual capacity by building Kia’s Sorento CUV, Michael Sprague, vice president-marketing for KMA says.

Kia officials in the past have talked about producing a small, fuel-efficient car at West Point. The Sorento is the only Kia sold in the U.S. that is not imported from Korea.

Adding Santa Fe production to West Point “makes sense,” Sprague says, because it shares a platform with the Sorento.

The decision also opens capacity at Hyundai’s assembly plant in Montgomery, AL. Current site of Santa Fe production, Montgomery is straining to build enough new-for-’11 Sonata sedans that are in high demand.

At an industry conference in northern Michigan earlier this month, Hyundai Motor America President and CEO John Krafcik suggested his company needed to quickly remedy the Sonata’s supply bottleneck.

Dealers are “absolutely tapped out” on Sonata inventory, Krafcik said, adding the transfer of Santa Fe production to West Point would be “helpful.”

Sonata sales were up 45% through July, compared with like-2009, according to Ward’s data. Days’ supply at the end of month was 27, down from 35 year-ago.

Kia officials say West Point will add a second shift to support the addition of Santa Fe production.

Meanwhile, Kia touts the success of the Sorento, which through July is the 15th best-selling light-truck in the U.S., with 59,765 units sold.

jamend@wardsauto.com