Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Over in West Point, First car rolls off Kia assembly line

The LaGrange Daily News
The first U.S.-built Kia vehicle, a white 2011 Sorento CUV, rolled off the production line Monday in West Point, officially opening the company’s first U.S. plant.

The plant is expected to produce 300,000 vehicles at full capacity and employ 2,500 people, with on-site and nearby suppliers creating 7,500 additional jobs in the region.

“The start of production for our first manufacturing facility in the United States further demonstrates our commitment to growth in North America, and we are proud to be adding 2,500 jobs to the local economy,” said B.M. Ahn, group president and CEO of Kia Motors America and Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia.

Representing an investment of $1 billion, officials said the plant will establish new benchmarks for vehicle quality and productivity by utilizing some of the world’s most advanced manufacturing techniques. The general assembly area is outfitted with more than a half mile of height-adjustable conveyors to achieve the most favorable installation position for each team member and reduce physical fatigue, they said. Also in general assembly, the West Point facility is the only plant in North America outfitted with wood flooring, which provides a more comfortable and forgiving work environment for team members, the company said.

Built on 2,200 acres, the complex includes a body stamping facility, a transmission shop where the all-new 2011 Sorento’s six-speed automatic transmission is produced, and a two-mile test track in addition to the main assembly plant.

The plant’s 186-foot-long stamping press delivers 5,400 tons of pressure to stamp steel into 17 types of vehicle panels for the all-new Sorento, operating at a speed of seven to 15 strokes per minute. The massive stamping equipment spans from almost 20 feet below the floor to 39.4 feet high.

Opening of the West Point plant continues Kia Motors’ aggressive investment in the U.S. market. Since 2002, more than $1.3 billion has been invested in various facilities throughout the country, including a dedicated corporate campus and design center in Irvine, Calif., a state-of-the-art research and development center in Ann Arbor, Mich., and custom-built vehicle proving grounds in Mojave, Calif.

Since coming to market in the United States, Kia Motors, through its U.S.-based marketing and distribution arm, Kia Motors America, has expanded to a full product line of vehicles and posted 14 years of consecutive market share increases, including a 50 percent increase through October. Most recently, Kia Motors America posted its best sales quarter in company history and is one of only three automakers whose sales are up over their 2008 sales pace.

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