MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama will begin building a new vehicle at its facility in Montgomery.
Gov. Kay Ivey and HMMA announced the Hyundai Santa Cruz will be built at the Montgomery plant. The Santa Cruz is a compact utility vehicle that also has an open bed. A $410 million expansion project will prepare Hyundai’s U.S. automotive assembly plant to build the vehicle in 2021, adding 230,000 square feet of space in the stamping, welding and parts processing areas of the manufacturing complex.
“The Santa Cruz will begin production in 2021 and will provide Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama with even more flexibility to meet changing market demand,” said President and CEO of HMMA Byungjin Jin.
HMMA said the project will add 1,200 new direct and indirect jobs to the Montgomery plant. Direct employment will increase by 200 jobs and local suppliers and logistics companies who support HMMA are projected to employ an additional 1,000 people in Montgomery and the River Region.
“While many initiatives played a major role in making this historic achievement possible, it never would have happened without the reality of first rate companies like Hyundai Motors continuing to invest in our great state,” said Ivey.
The Santa Cruz was first introduced as a concept crossover at the 2015 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, and Hyundai said it’s designed for younger buyers who want the traditional attributes of a compact utility vehicle but need the day-to-day versatility of an open bed. Robert Burns, vice president of administration at HMMA, spoke a bit about the Santa Cruz. He said the flexibility of the crossover vehicle will be critical to its success.
“The market right now is about 68 percent SUVs and the rest Sedans,” Burns said. “That’s what the consumer wants. Now, those SUVs, they’re not all eight passenger, they’re all different sizes. This crossover compact utility vehicle is in that smaller segment, so we have the entry level buyers like Millenials that are maybe looking at a different car.”
Burns said the plan is to make around 40,000 units a year once production is up and running.
HMMA started vehicle production in May 2005. The plant currently assembles Sonata and Elantra sedans, as well as Santa Fe SUVs, and according to its website HMMA employs more than 3,000 people.
It’s been a big year for HMMA expansion. Hyundai invested $388 million for a new engine head machining plant in Montgomery, which opened in May; the 260,000-square-foot building cost $40 million to construct, and the investment created 50 new jobs.
In September, HMMA announced it’s preparing to invest $292 million in the Montgomery factory to help with production of the redesigned Elantra and Santa Fe vehicles as well as the car company’s new, more fuel-efficient Theta engine.
Hyundai intends to begin filling the new positions being created by the latest expansion project during the second half of 2020.