Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. has narrowed its search for a North American plant site down to Montgomery, AL, and Glendale, KY. The final site, where Hyundai most likely will build a new midsize SUV, will be selected this spring, Hyundai officials say.

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This represents a delay from original estimates, which said Hyundai would make a final decision in the year’s first quarter. The No.1 South Korean auto maker has been studying locations for its first U.S. plant for two years and has been involved in nearly a year of detailed analysis, officials say.

Potential sites in Mississippi and Ohio have been eliminated in the latest round of negotiations, which has involved site visits by top company officials including President and CEO Kim Dong-Jin, as well as trips by state officials to South Korea.

Both the Alabama and Kentucky locations offer a high-quality physical site with good geological characteristics, Hyundai says. Both sites also offer a mature yet growing automotive industry.

Mercedes-Benz and Honda Motor Co. Ltd. have established manufacturing facilities in Alabama, while Toyota Motor Corp.’s largest U.S. assembly plant is located in Georgetown, KY. Hyundai says it will call upon the states’ expertise in assimilating non-U.S. companies to their communities. Both sites are located near established automotive supplier networks.

Representatives from Alabama Gov. Don Siegelman’s office claimed early in the process to have won the bid for the plant but now won’t comment on the bid’s progress. Siegelman does say, however, that he is striving toward making his state one of the country’s main automotive manufacturing hubs.

All major Japanese and European auto makers – with the exception of Volkswagen AG, which builds cars in Mexico – currently manufacture vehicles in the U.S. However, none of South Korea’s three global auto makers currently builds cars here. Hyundai once built vehicles in Bromont, Quebec, in a now-failed venture.