Reports of Hyundai U.S. plant surface again

Hyundai Motor Co. in the next 60 days could announce a plan to build a U.S. auto plant, possibly in Alabama or Kentucky, according to press reports.

A Korean newspaper last week quoted an unnamed Hyundai executive saying that the automaker has decided to go ahead with an American factory "to avoid trade disputes between Korea and the U.S."

And on Friday, Sept. 7, The Birmingham (Ala.) News reported the company's site-search team is considering a 1,300-acre industrial site near Opelika, Ala.; a site outside Elizabethtown, Ky.; and other sites in Mississippi and Georgia.

Attempts on Friday to confirm the story with Alabama economic development officials and industrial recruiters in Kentucky were unsuccessful.

But according to someone familiar with the Hyundai study, the company intends to reveal its plans in November.

Chris Hosford, a spokesman for Hyundai Motor America in Fountain Valley, Calif., said he had no information on the automaker's U.S. manufacturing plans and said Hyundai had no comment on the press reports.

Hyundai has been mulling the possibility of manufacturing vehicles in the United States for the past year. The company revealed this year that it had formed a site-selection committee.

But top officials there have downplayed the plan's certainty, saying only that the question is under study.

U.S. sales are booming for Hyundai and its sister company, Kia Motors Corp., even as the American market is softening.

Last month, Hyundai's U.S. sales were up 46 percent from a year before, and Kia's were up 41 percent.

So far this year, combined sales of both brands have reached 374,620 - a 37 percent gain over the year-ago period.

Recent statements by Hyundai indicated a U.S. plant would build both Kia and Hyundai vehicles. The company has never clarified which models would be produced but has said the plant under consideration could have a capacity for as many as 300,000 vehicles a year.

You can reach Lindsay Chappell at lchappell@crain.com

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