Kia Debuts First Georgia-Made EV at State Capitol

Gov. Kemp and State Leaders Celebrate Electric SUVs’ Debut
Georgia leaders with Kia
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp tries Kia's EV6 vehicle during a ceremony at the state Capitol building in Atlanta on Jan. 31. ((Yonhap News via Zuma Press/TNS)

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Kia executives met with Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and state leaders Feb. 13 to show off a historic milestone — the first electric vehicle built in Georgia.

Fresh off assembly lines at Kia’s West Point factory and recently highlighted in a Super Bowl ad, a fleet of three-row electric EV9 SUVs were parked outside the Gold Dome. It’s a sign to come for the Peach State as Kia, Hyundai and Rivian ramp up their respective plans to mass produce EVs across Georgia.

Steven Center, chief operating officer and executive vice president for Kia America, said there’s pride in being first, with the EV9 leading the pack.

“We’re very proud of that, and we’re very excited for Georgia because of its big future in e-mobility,” he said. The EV9 is essentially an electric Telluride, Kia’s popular three-row gas-powered crossover. The EV9 starts at $56,395 and is on sale now.

Kia’s West Point plant has been undergoing a $200 million expansion to incorporate EV9 production onto its current assembly lines. The expansion, which adds 200 jobs, is on pace to officially open in the spring, according to Stuart Countess, the head of Kia’s operations in West Point. He said production lines will be able to switch between producing gas-powered vehicles and plug-in SUVs.

“We have flexibility, so that we can move as the market is moving in either direction,” Countess said. The West Point factory has an annual production capacity of about 350,000 vehicles.

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Center said Kia has recently shifted gears to focus on hiring and training workers as part of the expansion. Kia recently launched its Veterans Technical Apprenticeship Program, which company officials discussed with state leaders.

Kia and other automakers have faced renewed unionization campaigns, with the United Auto Workers specifically targeting Southern factories including the one in West Point. But Center made clear that Kia brass doesn’t expect those efforts to get past the starting line.

“We have a good relationship with people in manufacturing, so there’s no upside for them to have (union) representation,” Center said.

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