|A down-home hot streak in Georgia|
ELLABELL, Ga. — It was hot, dusty … and historic.
On a 95-degree Friday afternoon, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and his entourage of economic development generals descended on one of the state’s prized industrial properties to announce over champagne and canapés that they had — finally — landed a worthy tenant.
And what a project it is.
South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Group will plant its first dedicated EV factory in the world about 30 miles northwest of Savannah, Ga. The project includes a battery cell manufacturing operation and an additional $1 billion investment by suppliers.
But the project, which will deliver more than 8,000 jobs, will more than just shake up a languid coastal town known for its antebellum architecture and Spanish moss-draped oak trees.
This new factory represents “the future of our business,” Hyundai Motor Co. CEO Jaehoon Chang said last week. “You will help us to meet growing demands of our U.S. customers.”
It also represents the future of Georgia auto manufacturing.
The state’s economic development boss, Pat Wilson, called the project a “generational investment.”
Kemp, who is bracing for a bruising re-election campaign, described Hyundai’s bet on his state as “unreal.”
“This is a mega-regional project,” Kemp told the assembled politicians, economic developers, auto execs and dealers, who roughed a dusty mile-long ride into the 2,923-acre wooded site on which the factory will rise over the next three years.
The Hyundai factory is “going to [bring] great opportunities for our Georgia families and their kids,” Kemp said. “Their grandkids will benefit from this plant right here.”
The $5.5 billion project is transformational for a state that has struggled to stick high-profile automotive plants that bring a constellation of suppliers.
In recent years, Georgia came close to landing Daimler’s Sprinter van plant and Volvo’s assembly plant but lost to South Carolina. Meanwhile, Alabama and Tennessee have become assembly plant magnets.
But the Peach State’s drought has ended. And when it rains, it pours.
In late December, California-based EV upstart Rivian announced a $5 billion factory outside burgeoning Atlanta. That project brings 7,500 jobs and the buzz of a promising auto startup.
At the time, Kemp crowed that the Rivian investment, lured with a sweet $1.5 billion in incentives, was the largest economic development project in Georgia’s history.
Kemp was back to announce a new claimant to that title six months later.
“After today, no one can doubt that Georgia is … the unrivaled leader in the nation’s emerging electric mobility industry,” Kemp said Friday.
A politician’s rhetoric aside, the twin wins give Georgia the momentum to become a Southeast auto manufacturing powerhouse for the next generation.
In Monday’s Automotive News:
Powering up: Dodge CEO Tim Kuniskis breaks down his vision for the Power Brokers dealer program, reserved for stores with the highest customer service standards. The program, which launched in March, creates new revenue streams by making these dealers the sole source for Direct Connection parts from the factory, which can be installed without breaking vehicle warranties. The program doesn’t require any showroom investments, but dealers are free to use their creativity to make themselves stand out, Kuniskis says. We’ll get a look at the training and preparation it takes to earn this status from Kuniskis and the Power Brokers sales/parts experts.
Making competitiveness a top priority: As the auto industry endures global supply chain disruptions, the Motor & Equipment Manufacturers Association is focused on getting passage of an innovation and competition bill that is making its way through Congress. The Senate passed its version of the bill last year. Both bills’ major focuses are on improving U.S. competitiveness with China and boosting semiconductor manufacturing. MEMA President Ann Wilson sat down with Automotive News to discuss the bills and more.
American Axle to explore sale of company: A leveraged buyout through a private equity firm is a likely option for the supplier of automotive axles and drivetrain components, one person told Bloomberg. No decision has been made and the company could decide to stand pat.
GM’s path to success: After having taken incremental steps with electric vehicles — selling the EV1 by itself in the late 1990s, followed by the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid in 2010 and the Chevy Bolt in 2016 — General Motors has decided the right path is to offer a full portfolio of EVs on sale at the same time, President Mark Reuss said at the Automotive News Congress in Nashville. “It’s hard to put one car in market and have anybody get behind it in a sales network,” he said.
Not your grandpa’s VW Microbus: Volkswagen Commercial Vehicles has announced that prices for the ID Buzz electric van will start at €54,430 ($57,220) in Germany for the Cargo version and €64,581 ($67,891) for the five-seat passenger Pro version. The first vehicles will be delivered in autumn, while U.S. deliveries are set to start in early 2024.
Tesla fans to Musk: Enough! Fans of the top-selling EV maker are imploring its CEO and founder, Elon Musk, to tone down his attacks on Democrats and liberals — many of whom buy his vehicles — and rethink his plans to buy Twitter. The calls come as Tesla’s stock price has plummeted with the rest of the market, its China plant is temporarily shut down and supply chain headaches hinder production in Texas and Berlin. All of this comes as competitors begin to bring their EVs to market in greater numbers.
May 26, 2019: Roger Penske’s Team Penske wins the Indy 500. The race marked Penske’s 50th anniversary at Indy and his team’s 18th win there, giving Penske more victories than any other owner.