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Asia Minute: South Korean automaker Hyundai breaks ground on $5.5B US plant

An unsold 2019 Accent sedan sits at a Hyundai dealership in Littleton, Colo. on May 19, 2019. Hyundai is recalling 239,000 cars because the seat belts can explode and injure vehicle occupants.
David Zalubowski
FILE - An unsold 2019 Accent sedan sits at a Hyundai dealership in Littleton, Colo. on May 19, 2019.

A South Korean company has broken ground on a multi-billion-dollar plant in the United States. The focus is electric vehicles — and the project is pushing in a new direction.

Hyundai is building a $5.5 billion plant in the United States designed to eventually churn out half a million electric vehicles a year.

Company executives say production could begin by late 2024 or early 2025.

South Korea’s Joong Ang Daily reports construction has been speeded up since the plans were announced in May. The reason for the faster pace is the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act.

The law offers tax breaks for electric vehicles built in the United States — a provision that makes a huge difference to Hyundai.

The corporate parent is No. 2 in global electric vehicle sales — trailing only Tesla — with models sold under the brand names of Hyundai, Kia and Genesis.

Right now, all three are produced in South Korea — making them ineligible for those U.S. tax breaks.

They will all be part of the company’s first U.S. plant, near Savannah, Georgia.

The sprawling complex will take up more than 4 square miles and include a separate facility to produce electric batteries in a joint venture with a partner company that has not yet been publicly named.

Georgia officials present for this week’s groundbreaking say it is the single largest economic development project in the history of the state.

Bill Dorman has been the news director at Hawaiʻi Public Radio since 2011.
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