By Min-Ji Jung
Corporate-Culture PR Team
More than 10 million new cars are sold annually in the US, a fiercely competitive market seen as the world’s test bed for automobiles. Kia Motors is making greater inroads in the US market with the launch of its first local production plant in the state of Georgia. The official opening ceremony of Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG) took place on February 26, 2010. Located in West Point, Georgia, KMMG can roll out up to 300,000 vehicles annually. Kia, which already has plants in China (430,000 units) and Slovakia (300,000 units), is now equipped to produce more than 1 million units overseas.
State-of-the-art automobile factory
Interstate 85 runs through the states of Georgia and Alabama. It also takes you along the US southern auto belt, home to auto plants of companies like GM, Ford and Hyundai Motor. If you take the I-85 from Atlanta and travel two hours southwest, you will reach the city of West Point, the site of KMMG. It took about three years to complete the facility after work kicked off in October 2006. Although it looks a lot different now, the site that houses KMMG used to be pastures for grazing cattle.
It is a self-sufficient complex that includes a press shop, body shop, paint shop, transmission shop, module shop and other facilities to make finished cars. It also has a parts storage warehouse and testing facilities. The site is the largest among all production plants of the Automotive Group.
All vehicles out of KMMG undergo rigorous quality testing. Testing facilities include a 1.4 km track of straight and curved roads and a 3.1 km track with 14 specially simulated roads. Finished cars and parts are transported via roads and railway in the vicinity. In particular, KMMG boasts a railway system within the grounds. What’s more, a conveyor belt carries parts made by suppliers residing on the KMMG site, leading to savings in logistics costs.
The cutting-edge auto plant has drawn much attention. Recently, the head of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) and an army general visited KMMG – DARPA is an agency under the US Dept. of Defense responsible for developing new technology for military use. Last summer, the head of BMW Manufacturing in South Carolina and the plant supervisor paid a visit to see KMMG’s production system and agreed on plans for mutual exchanges.
KMMG will produce models for distribution in the North American market. It joins other Kia facilities in the US including the design center in Irvine, California. With the launch of KMMG, Kia is now equipped with a full range of operations in the US extending from R&D to production, sales, marketing and after-service. This means Kia can respond more swiftly to changes in local consumer demands and market conditions. KMMG began producing the all-new Sorento in November 2009 and is scheduled to start manufacturing an RV from the second half of the year. Its target is to roll out 130,000 vehicles by the year’s end. Next year, KMMG intends to boost output to 185,000 units. It subsequently plans to launch production of a new model for the US market and raise capacity to 300,000 units.
New Sorento ranked 2nd in the mid-size SUV market
New Sorento, the first Kia car to be built on US soil, sheds a positive light on KMMG. Kia sold 8,207 units of Sorento, in February, which made the model the second best-selling mid-size SUV of the month. Moreover, a review of customer claims suggests that the initial quality of all-new Sorento may be the highest among Kia cars to date.
A key advantage of KMMG has to do with the local employees. Many of them have prior experience working in plants. Another positive is the emphasis on family and teamwork prevalent in the region. The enthusiasm of the local staff is evident in the statistics. KMMG produces 57 vehicles per hour and an average 460 vehicles a day. The operating rate topped 100% from the first month of production. With its leading-edge facilities and top-notch workforce, KMMG seems to be on its way to emerging as the new automobile Mecca of North America.