MONTGOMERY, AL – Just two years after startup, Hyundai Motor Mfg. Alabama Inc. will reach its full 300,000-unit annual capacity this year, Keith Duckworth, deputy president, says at a manufacturing event here.

HMMA built 237,350 units in 2006, Ward’s data shows. The next-generation Santa Fe cross/utility vehicle began production here last spring joining the Sonata midsize sedan, which launched with the plant’s opening in May 2005.

Steve Wilhite, chief operating officer-Hyundai Motor America, says vehicles built for sale in the U.S. will comprise “a little over 260,000 units” this year. Exports to Canada and Puerto Rico account for the additional 40,000 vehicles.

Sonata sales have been “a little disappointing,” Wilhite admits, noting there has been some recent improvement due to a $199 monthly lease deal on the car that kicked in this month.

“Lease penetration is going up, and volumes in February are improving and on target,” he says. “We’re looking forward to a great, positive first quarter.”

Sonata sales were down 39.9% in January vs. prior year, according to Ward’s data.

But Wilhite is quick to point out that the Santa Fe’s $249 monthly lease program is not the result of slowing sales but growth plans for the vehicle he classifies as “pretty ambitious.”

“Santa Fe sales are really strong,” Wilhite says. “We’re up about 70% from the prior year.”

Hyundai now is building all Santa Fes for North America here, unlike last year when some early units came from South Korea. And Wilhite says he would “love” to see a third vehicle added to HMMA.

The Elantra compact sedan or Accent subcompact sedan and hatchback are likely candidates. Both continue to be in short supply in North America, due to demand for the products in global markets and labor strife at Hyundai’s Korean plants.

“We would still like to get more Elantras and Accents, definitely,” Wilhite says. “Worldwide demand outstrips supply, and we’re fighting for a little bit more than our fair share.”