Workers built about 50 of the SUVs on the first day, and they will ramp up to possibly 200 per day next week, said Robert Burns, spokesman for the automaker’s Montgomery operations. By the end of the year, more than 36,000 are expected to roll off the facility’s assembly line, part of Hyundai’s effort to meet growing demand in the segment.
The production launch prompted Governor Robert Bentley to visit the plant, where he spoke with Hyundai Alabama CEO J.H. Kim and saw the facility’s skilled workforce and high-tech robots at work.
The company spent $52 million on the project, primarily for equipment and line improvements to accommodate the vehicle. There were also tooling purchases for suppliers to support the Santa Fe, and employees received additional training.
The Santa Fe was previously produced in Alabama, from 2005 to 2010, when output was transferred to a plant in West Point, Ga., operated by Hyundai’s affiliate, Kia. Production of the SUV will continue there.
The $1.8 billion, 3,000-worker Montgomery plant also produces Hyundai’s top-selling cars, the Sonata and Elantra.
“We’re thrilled to bring back another pillar of the Hyundai lineup to our production mix here at HMMA,” said Chris Susock, vice president of production, Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama. “We’ve been extremely proud to build both Sonata and Elantra on our assembly line for Hyundai in the U.S. and we will continue our tradition of quality and productivity with the addition of the Santa Fe Sport in 2016.”