Hyundai could add hybrid car production to $7.6 billion Georgia plant

José Muñoz, CEO of the North American Hyundai Motor Group

Credit: Hyundai Motor Group

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Credit: Hyundai Motor Group

“We are now getting ready for a ramp-up of electric vehicles and then we will evaluate whether we might need to add some additional technologies to the plan depending on the market evaluation,” Muñoz told CNBC at the New York International Auto Show.

A Hyundai spokesperson told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “Hyundai Motor Group is always evaluating different options to adapt to market and consumer demand.”

Plug-in hybrids offer electric propulsion for short distances and a gasoline engine for a longer range.

This isn’t the first time Hyundai has considered building vehicles with combustion engines or hybrid powertrains at the Metaplant, which will produce Hyundai, Kia and Genesis models. Before Hyundai announced the 2022 plant, they considered vehicles with other powertrains to be built there.

Muñoz said Hyundai, which is the second-largest seller of electric cars after Tesla, is not strategically shifting gears away from fully electric cars. But he told CNBC that “everything is on the table” as the company responds to the market forces shaping the long-term future of the auto industry.

On Wednesday, the company unveiled a redesigned Tuscon crossover that will feature a conventional gas engine, as well as hybrid and plug-in hybrid EV versions.

“We have been one of the pioneers in electric cars and I think we want to take advantage of that,” he said. “But hybrid is very important… our hybrid production is growing. There is a lot of demand for. So you will also see an increase in the mix of hybrids at Hyundai.”

Georgia has become a national leader in the expected electrification of automotive travel, with Hyundai as the state’s largest player. The company is investing $12.6 billion in the Peach State, including its Metaplant in Bryan County and a joint battery manufacturing facility with SK On in Bartow County. Subsidiary Kia, which currently operates Georgia’s only auto plant in West Point, is also integrating electric vehicles into its production lines.

According to the Georgia Department of Economic Development, the state has announced 53 EV and battery projects since 2018, representing $27.3 billion in investment and more than 32,000 expected jobs. This includes Rivian’s planned $5 billion EV factory an hour east of Atlanta, which has been put on hold indefinitely as the company shifts focus to profitability. Cox Enterprises, owner of the AJC, owns about a 4% stake in Rivian.

Rivian has said its future factory in Georgia remains an important part of its future, although no new construction timeline has been announced.

Hyundai’s Metaplant is growing rapidly in Bryan County and is on track to begin production in October, more than three months ahead of schedule. The company’s supplier network has also announced several nearby projects to supply parts to the factory, which is expected to produce 300,000 electric vehicles per year in its first phase. Once fully operational, the factory will employ an estimated 8,500 workers.

Muñoz told CNBC that hybrids are receiving renewed attention from consumers, especially those hesitant to switch completely to electric. But he said it is clear from consumer demand and government regulation that internal combustion engines are not the long-term future.

“We see a very clear path to electrification,” he said. “…I don’t think hybrid will be the only solution. We remain committed to both: electric cars and hybrids.”

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