ELLABELL, Ga. — South Korean automotive giant Hyundai Motor Group on Friday confirmed plans to build a multi-billion-dollar electric vehicle assembly and battery plant in Bryan County near the Georgia coast.
In a ceremony at the factory site near Savannah with Gov. Brian Kemp, company officials outlined sprawling future operations on nearly 3,000 acres along I-16. Hyundai plans eventually to hire about 8,100 people and invest $5.54 billion in one of the state’s largest-ever economic development recruitments.
The project is part of Hyundai’s plan to invest $7.4 billion in the U.S. by 2025 to expand EVs and “smart mobility” services.
“As one of the world’s most successful and advanced mobility leaders, we are incredibly proud to share our plan to open our first dedicated full EV and battery manufacturing facilities in the U.S.,” Hyundai Motor Group Executive Chair Euisun Chung said in a news release. “The U.S. has always held an important place in the Group’s global strategy, and we are excited to partner with the State of Georgia to achieve our shared goal of electrified mobility and sustainability in the U.S.”
Hyundai officials said they will break ground on the new facility in 2023 and begin production in 2025 with the capacity to build 300,000 vehicles per year. Hyundai will also build batteries on site with a joint venture partner that will be announced later, part of an effort to establish a stable supply chain.
The Hyundai group includes the Hyundai, Kia and Genesis brands. The company said the factory is a key part of its plan to build an EV ecosystem in the U.S. and that it will produce a “wide range” of electric models. Specifics about the brands or models to be built at the site will be announced later, the company said.
Plug-in vehicles are widely seen as the future of the industry, and states have clamored to win new EV factories by showering automakers with billions of dollars in incentives.
It was just six months ago that Kemp and executives with California-based EV startup Rivian announced a $5 billion factory — and 7,500 planned jobs — were coming to the area of Social Circle about an hour’s drive east of Atlanta.
EVs make up about 3% of U.S. auto sales, but that is expected to grow exponentially as fuel and emissions standards tighten and costs to build EVs drop, making them competitive in price with conventional vehicles. Kemp and his predecessor, Gov. Nathan Deal, have positioned the state to compete for new factories.
The Hyundai and Rivian projects combined could bring more than 15,000 manufacturing jobs to Georgia. Another 3,000 jobs have been promised as part of a $2.6 billion SK Innovation battery plant an hour northeast of Atlanta, which started production in January. SK Innovation, like Hyundai, is based in South Korea.
The projects have come with head-turning incentive packages. Hyundai is likely to receive tax breaks and other incentives rivaling the $1.5 billion package of grants, tax breaks, free land, worker training and infrastructure offered to Rivian. SK commanded a $300 million incentive package.
Hyundai Motor subsidiary Kia announced its first U.S. plant in West Point in 2006, and the Georgia factory now employs more than 2,700.
States covet auto factories because they bring billions in investment, thousands of middle-class jobs, and the likelihood of spinoff jobs from a network of suppliers. Kia already has a web of suppliers in Georgia that support its West Point factory, where it builds gas-powered Sorento and Telluride SUVs and K5 sedans.
Hyundai officials said they picked Georgia for its EV hub because of its business climate, workforce and the company’s existing supplier network.
“The future of transportation is in the Peach State as we announce the largest project in our state’s history — delivering high-quality jobs on the leading edge of mobility to hardworking Georgians,” Kemp said in the news release.
Pat Wilson, the state’s economic development commissioner, said in an interview the state has already launched its supplier recruitment effort. Hyundai committed to $1 billion in investments from its supplier network, which could lead to thousands of additional jobs, Wilson said.
Kia officials have given every indication that the West Point plant will remain a critical part of its U.S. operations, and the new factory will help Georgia’s supplier network transition to the EV future, Wilson said.
“This solidifies jobs all across the state,” he said. “This is transformational, it’s generational and it’s something the city of Savannah and surrounding counties are going to benefit for the next 50, 60 years.”
The announcement comes just days before Tuesday’s Republican primary for governor. Kemp leads his main rival, former U.S. Sen. David Perdue, in polling by double digits.
Friday’s announcement also comes as President Joe Biden begins a major Asian diplomatic mission to South Korea and Japan. Biden is expected to visit with Hyundai leadership before departing South Korea on Sunday, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan told reporters late Thursday aboard Air Force One, according to White House pool reports.
Sullivan said Biden will express his gratitude to the company for its significant investment in the United States. Biden’s visits to South Korea and Japan are intended to deepen economic and security ties, and the Hyundai announcement coincides with Biden’s agenda to expand battery-powered vehicles and EV manufacturing in the U.S.©2022 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Visit at ajc.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.