ATLANTA -- Kia plans to add a second shift at its Georgia factory on Oct. 1 to build the 2011 Santa Fe crossover for corporate cousin Hyundai.
Santa Fe production will move from Hyundai's plant in Montgomery, Ala., which also makes the Sonata sedan. The Kia plant, in West Point, Ga., already produces the Sorento SUV.
The switch addresses Hyundai's need to boost U.S. manufacturing capacity. Hyundai Motor America CEO John Krafcik said this month that an expansion plan was in the works.
Hyundai has been striving to keep dealers stocked with the Sonata without importing cars from South Korea. U.S. sales of the Sonata have soared 45 percent through July compared with a year earlier.
Hyundai's Alabama plant has been running on maximum overtime in an effort to keep pace with demand for the Sonata, the brand's best-selling U.S. vehicle.
The move also demonstrates the manufacturing flexibility the companies gain through their corporate partnerships.
Parent Hyundai Motor Corp. owns 35 percent of Kia Motors Corp. Limited production of the 2011 Santa Fe will begin Sept. 27 before the second shift is activated in West Point. Additional workers have been hired at Kia's plant, bringing total employment there to about 1,900, Kia said in a statement.
If Hyundai shifts all 2011 Santa Fe production to the Kia plant, Hyundai potentially could boost Sonata production at its Alabama factory.
The Sorento and the Santa Fe share a common vehicle platform. Kia built an estimated 69,332 Sorentos at the plant this year through Saturday, Aug. 21, as U.S. sales this year more than tripled, to 59,795. Santa Fe sales have risen 28 percent to 51,423.
The Georgia plant has the capacity to build 300,000 vehicles annually.