ATLANTA — Kia will invest $200 million in its Georgia factory to begin producing an electric-powered SUV, the company announced Wednesday.
The South Korean company said it would hire an additional 200 workers to begin producing its large EV9 vehicle in West Point by early 2024. The company said it would expand overall production at the plant near the Alabama state line southwest of Atlanta. Kia says the plant currently produces 340,000 vehicles a year, including Telluride, Sorrento and Sportage SUVs and K5 sedans.
Kia has 3,000 employees at the plant. Spokesperson Patrick Sands said the EV9 would be built on the same assembly line as the other vehicles, and Kia was investing to assemble electric powertrains.
Hyundai Motor Group, Kia’s parent, is pushing hard into electric vehicles. Hyundai is sprinting to complete a $5.5 billion plant to assemble electric vehicles and batteries in Ellabell, Georgia, near Savannah. The company also invested $300 million in its Montgomery, Alabama plant to begin making electric vehicles there, starting with the Genesis Electrified GV70 SUV. Hyundai also 200 hired additional workers for that Alabama investment.
Kia leaders said they hoped the EV9, with three rows of seats, would do for company sales what the large Telluride did for the brand once it began rolling off the assembly line in West Point in 2019. Kia began delivering EV9s to customers in South Korea last month.
“Like Telluride, EV9 has the potential to be another change catalyst for Kia,” Sean Yoon, President and CEO of Kia Motors America, said in a statement. “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.”
The investment comes even as Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and Hyundai complain that federal electric vehicle tax credits are unfair to the South Korean manufacturer because its vehicles are only eligible if they are leased. The domestic content standards of the Inflation Reduction Act, which is pumping billions into electric vehicle subsidies, make tax incentives on electric vehicle purchases available only when the vehicle, the battery, and key raw materials in the battery are all made in the United States.
Hyundai has announced it will partner in a battery factory in Cartersville, northwest of Atlanta.
Georgia has been a top beneficiary of a nationwide electric vehicle investment boom, with more than 40 electric vehicle-related projects since 2020 pledging $22.9 billion of investment and 28,600 jobs in the state. Kemp has said he and other Georgia officials should get credit, while Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff has argued President Joe Biden’s policies are driving the boom.
Georgia will pay to train workers for the Kia expansion. The company says on its website that production workers start with a salary of $38,000 a year, with pay raises and extra pay for working evening shifts.
Kia could qualify for $1.75 million in state income tax credits, at $1,750 per job over five years, as long as workers make at least $31,300 a year. The company could qualify for other incentives, including property tax breaks from West Point and Troup County.
Kia got more than $450 million in incentives for its plant in West Point, which opened in 2010. West Point’s financial statements show that in 2019, Kia, its affiliates and suppliers were receiving $2.8 million in property tax breaks from the city alone.