Here’s what makes Hyundai’s Georgia EV factory a ‘Metaplant’
Similar facility nearing completion in Singapore meant to mark start of ‘fourth industrial revolution’
Credit: Drew Kann/AJC
Credit: Drew Kann/AJC
A view of construction progress at the future site of Hyundai Motor Group's 'Metaplant' in Bryan County near Savannah is shown on October 25, 2023. The $7.6 billion factory electric vehicle and battery plant is expected to begin production in early 2025. (Drew Kann@firstname.lastname@example.org
ELLABELL ― Hyundai Motor Group officials don’t use words like “factory” or “assembly plant” when talking about their electric vehicle manufacturing campus under construction near Savannah.
Instead, they call the massive facility a Metaplant, a curious label that often comes up in conversations among local residents.
Hyundai officials finally defined Metaplant during an event Wednesday marking the first anniversary of the facility’s groundbreaking. In a presentation to the media, Hyundai provided the dictionary definition of meta — “transformation, transcending” — and described a Metaplant as “a manufacturing facility that will transform the definition of what an automotive plant is and will transcend its Meta Pros’ perception of what working in a manufacturing can be.”
The term “Meta Pro” is Hyundai lingo for employees and the Metaplant concept “speaks to” the automaker’s “brand pillars – sustainable, innovative and humane,” according to the presentation.
The Hyundai officials on hand for Wednesday’s event declined to offer additional details on the Metaplant concept, although workplace innovations will include the use of virtual reality and the factory design is meant to allow flexibility in the manufacturing process.
Hyundai has yet to announce which models will be produced in Bryan County, but officials have said they plan to manufacture cars for all three of the automakers brands: Hyundai, Kia and Genesis. Building such a range of cars in the same facility and presumably on the same assembly lines is a departure from traditional automobile manufacturing techniques, said Trip Tollison, head the Savannah JDA, the coalition of the region’s economic development authorities behind the efforts to lure Hyundai to Georgia.
“Electric vehicles are the future of the auto industry,” he said. “When you think about the old way of manufacturing cars, this by contrast will be a versatile plant making several models.”
The Georgia factory will be Hyundai’s second EV Metaplant. The automaker is nearing completion of the Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Centre in Jurong, Singapore. The Asian facility is much smaller than the Savannah plant, with plans to produce up to 30,000 units of the Hyundai Ioniq 5 EV. That’s about one-tenth the annual production Hyundai plans for the first phase of its coastal Georgia plant.
Hyundai has published marketing materials detailing its vision for a Metaplant. In the presentation available on YouTube, the CEO of the Singapore facility, Hong-Bum Jung, describes the advent of smart automobile factories as the “fourth industrial revolution” on par with the invention of the steam engine, the internal-combustion engine and computers.
The Metaplant will be “human-like” in network capabilities and rely on a virtual reality factory that runs in concert with the actual manufacturing facility. The VR workspace will allow managers to anticipate assembly problems and test solutions.
In addition, the Metaplant will leverage real-time data in order to predict consumer choices and forecast product demand. The technology compliments a flexible manufacturing process meant to allow for never-before-seen vehicle customization options for buyers.
“We will produce cars tailored to individual tastes,” Jung said.
The Singapore Innovation Centre is projected to open before year’s end. The Georgia Metaplant is on schedule to begin production in late 2024 or early 2025.