Kia Motors Corp. Will Build a Small car at its still-under-construction West Point, GA, plant, a topMotor Co. Ltd. executive reveals in Seoul.
Vice Chairman and CEO Kim Dong-jin declines to say what small car will be built at the greenfield plant, only that it likely will have a C-segment platform. He also suggests Kia's U.S. plant could build a Hyundai-brand version of the car on the same platform.
Kim, who is a member of Hyundai's South Korean governing board and involved with strategic discussions involving both Hyundai and its Kia affiliate, says there was interest in building a pickup truck at the Georgia plant, but high oil prices and the declining U.S. light-truck market have caused executives to change direction and opt for a small car.
Industry watchers have speculated the upcoming Soul cross/utility vehicle could be the second product built at the plant. A Kia spokesman says production of the second-generation Sorrento SUV still is planned for Georgia, as previously announced, but declines to comment on a possible second model.
Kim also puts the official kibosh on Hyundai developing a separate luxury brand and dealer channel for its Genesis sedan and coupe. The idea was the subject of intense internal debate.
But internal and external research shows such a venture would be too expensive for the limited number of cars involved, costing as much as $2.5 billion to fully establish a new brand and dealership channel.
Meanwhile, Hyundai is hoping to introduce a plug-in hybrid-electric vehicle capable of traveling 43 miles (70 km) under electric power by 2011.
Underscoring the auto maker's goal of becoming a global leader in powertrain development, Hyundai Vice Chairman and CEO Kim Dong-jin tells journalists the car company is working with South Korean chemical companies to develop the high-capacity lithium-ion batteries necessary to make such a vehicle work.