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Made in America: Kia

Based in Seoul, South Korea, Kia Motors Corporation (KMC) does business in the United States as Kia Motors America (KMA). Its single North America-based vehicle-production facility is Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG).

Part of the world’s fifth-leading automotive manufacturer Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group, KMC is currently the fastest-growing carmaker in the world. Basically thought of as a value brand in this country, Kia made history in 2016, as the first nonluxury brand ever to snag the top spot in J.D. Power’s Initial Quality Study for that year. It repeated the feat in the 2017 IQS.

With 647,598 total combined sales of cars and crossovers in 2016, KMA was the eighth-ranked brand in U.S. sales last year. That annual sales total was a 3.5 percent increase over 2015.

Where?

Sprawling across 2,200 acres, KMMG is located in West Point, Georgia on the Alabama border about 80 miles southwest of Atlanta. It’s at Exit 6, off I-85.

When?

In March 2006, Georgia and KMA inked the agreement that set the stage for situating the carmaker’s first vehicle-assembly plant in the U.S., ground breaking for the $1 billion plant followed in October of the same year. Within two years of breaking ground, the lead group of hourly employees reported for work. Assembly workers began building vehicles at KMMG in November of 2009 with the plant’s grand opening celebrated three months later in February 2010. In 2011, KMMG began a $100 million expansion to boost production capacity by 20 percent.

What?

KMMG builds the midsize Sorento crossover and the midsize Optima sedan.

Tight lipped about actual production volume, Kia won’t release the number of vehicles KMMG produces each year, but all 114,733 Sorentos sold in the U.S. last year came from the Georgia plant, which doesn’t include those exported. All 124,200 Optimas sold here last year weren’t built at KMMG, but most were.

With an annual production capacity of 360,000 units, KMMG reached the 2-million-vehicles-produced milestone in March of 2016. The 1 millionth Sorento rolled off the KMMG line in May of 2017.

Also on the KMMG campus is the Kia Georgia Training Center. It provides pre-employment assessment training and job-specific training for KMMG employees. Providing robotics, welding and electronics labs and classrooms, the center is the first-stop for potential KMMG employees.

How?

KMMG is a three-shift operation employing more than 2,700 salary and hourly workers. Additionally, roughly another 11,000 jobs for vendors, suppliers and other trickle-down businesses can be attributed to KMMG.

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