Kia’s $200M electric SUV expansion at Georgia plant to add 200 jobs

New EV will be built at Kia’s existing West Point factory. Parent Hyundai Motor Group is also building plant near Savannah.

The incorporation of a new electric SUV at Kia’s manufacturing plant represents the company’s largest investment in the Peach State since it came to West Point nearly 15 years ago.

The EV9 is the Korean automaker’s first three-row electric SUV and will be produced in Georgia in the second quarter of next year. The expansion will include more than $200 million of investment from Kia and will create 200 new jobs at the existing factory, according to a Wednesday news release.

Gov. Brian Kemp praised Kia’s decision to base its EV9 operations in Georgia, adding to the wave of automakers and EV companies flocking to the state.

“Georgia’s longstanding partnership with Kia has led to generational job creation and growth for the West Point area,” Kemp said in the release. “This project will both bring more opportunity to hardworking Georgians and help propel the state toward our goal of becoming the e-mobility capital.”

Kia showed off the EV9 at the 2023 New York International Auto Show in April, touting it as the electric counterpart to the company’s gas-powered Telluride model. The EV9 will join the Telluride and three other models — the Sorento, Sportage SUV and K5 midsize sedan — on West Point’s production lines. Kia has not said how many EV9 vehicles it expects to produce annually in West Point.

Kia unveiled the EV9 for the first time in North America at the 2023 New York International Auto Show.

Credit: Kia

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Credit: Kia

The West Point factory opened in 2009 and has grown to employ more than 2,700 workers through subsequent expansions. Kemp’s office said the plant supports more than 14,000 jobs across the region, given its network of suppliers. More than 40% of Kia vehicles sold in the U.S. are manufactured in West Point, which is roughly 80 miles southwest of downtown Atlanta.

Batteries for the EV9 will eventually be built at a previously announced factory in Bartow County that’s a joint partnership between SK Innovation and Kia’s parent company, Hyundai Motor Group. Separately, Hyundai is building a $5.54 billion factory near Savannah that will produce Hyundai, Kia and Genesis EVs.

Hyundai Motor Group and its brands have aggressive plans to expand EV manufacturing in the U.S. The Bryan County factory, for example, will have capabilities to produce 300,000 EVs its first year. The production can be expanded to 500,000, contingent on customer demand.

ELLABELL, GA. - JUNE 5, 2023: large steel I-beams are staged near the paint building at the Hyundai Metaplant site, Monday, June 5, 2023, in Ellabell, Ga. (AJC Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

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Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

The EV9 will join Kia’s other two fully-electric vehicles — the EV6 crossover and a Niro EV, based on the conventional model. Kia also sells several hybrid or plug-in hybrid vehicles, including electrified versions of its Sorento, Niro and Sportage crossovers.

“Like Telluride, EV9 has the potential to be another change catalyst for Kia,” Sean Yoon, president and CEO of Kia North America and Kia Motors America, said in the release. “This will be the most innovative vehicle that we have ever built and will be a standout in the EV market and on the road. Best of all, it will be assembled in West Point, Georgia.”

The expected sales price of the vehicle was not provided. To qualify for a $7,500 tax break under federal law, the SUV must be priced less than $80,000.

Since 2020, EV makers and their suppliers have announced more than 40 projects in Georgia totaling more than 28,400 announced jobs and $22.7 billion in anticipated investment, according to Kemp’s office. Hyundai’s Bryan County factory, the state’s largest economic development project, accounts for a large portion of the state’s EV investment. It has spurred more than a half-dozen parts suppliers to announce factories for the surrounding region.

State and local incentives have played a central role in attracting the EV industry to the Peach State. Hyundai, for instance, received a $1.8 billion incentive package for its Bryan County factory. When Kia first came to West Point, it received about $469 million in incentives.

Kia will qualify for job-creation tax credits and worker training through Georgia Quick Start for the additional jobs related to the EV9 expansion. A Georgia Department of Economic Development spokesperson said negotiations involving discretionary incentives, such as grants, remain active.