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By Heekyong Yang and Ben Klayman
SEOUL/DETROIT (Reuters) -Hyundai Motor Co plans to build a new electric-vehicle manufacturing plant in the United States and has held discussions with officials in Georgia, near existing plants for the Hyundai and Kia brands, people with knowledge of its plans told Reuters.
Hyundai Motor confirmed an imminent plan for a new EV plant but declined to comment on any details, including site negotiations.
"We are excited to announce a new EV plant plan in the United States soon, but we do not have details to share at this stage," Hyundai said in a statement to Reuters when asked about its investment plans.
Hyundai has been in advanced discussions with state officials to build a dedicated EV facility in Georgia, three people with direct knowledge of the talks told Reuters. Details of the investment, including its projected cost and the number of jobs it would be expected to create, were not immediately known.
The new Georgia EV facility, if it is finalized, would serve both Hyundai and Kia as the brands move to roll out a pair of fully electric SUVs – the Ioniq 7 and EV9 – aimed at the U.S. market, the three people with knowledge of the plans told Reuters.
Georgia's Economic Department declined to comment. "We do not comment on speculation about economic development projects," said a state economic development department spokesperson.
The announcement of an investment deal by Hyundai would come at a time when the administration of President Joe Biden has been pushing for more investment in EVs and related suppliers to create jobs and drive a clean-energy agenda. It would also mark a major economic development win for Georgia, which has pushed to establish itself as a regional hub for the emerging EV industry.
The announcement could come days before the May 24 Georgia primary election in which Republican Governor Brian Kemp is being challenged by former U.S. Senator David Perdue.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the company could hire 8,500 as part of its plans to build a new factory https://www.ajc.com/news/kias-parent-firm-planning-second-georgia-plant/LLYX2V2MSFHE7OZQZKWVX33RPA. The newspaper said the plant could be located on a more than 2,200-acre site that the state had previously proposed to Rivian, Volvo and Jaguar Land Rover.
Hyundai had been working to announce its U.S. investment in EV manufacturing sometime later this month to coincide with Biden's planned visit to Seoul, another person with knowledge of the plans said.
Hyundai announced a $300-million investment last month to manufacture the all-electric Genesis GV 70 and a hybrid version of the Santa Fe at its Alabama plant. The Genesis model would be Hyundai's first EV made in the United States.
Hyundai's comment to Reuters was the company's first confirmation that it was nearing an announcement on a site for a new EV plant.
Hyundai affiliate Kia also said last month that it was looking to shift production to the United States but was not considering a dedicated EV factory on its own.
Kia has said it will have 14 EVs by 2027. Hyundai has said it will roll out 17 by 2030, including six for its luxury Genesis brand.
Hyundai's battery supplier, SK Innovation's battery unit SK On, has just built two adjacent plants in Georgia. The first, which mostly supplies Volkswagen AG, kicked off production in the first quarter. The second, which will supply batteries for Ford Motor Co, is set to begin production early next year.
SK On will supply the battery for the Ioniq 7, a person with knowledge of that contract told Reuters. SK On said it cannot comment on supply deals involving specific customers.
Biden is set to travel to South Korea on May 20 for meetings with South Korea's incoming president Yoon Suk-yeol, an advocate of steps to shore-up South Korea's ties with the United States.
The Biden administration has said it will allocate more than $3 billion in infrastructure funding to finance EV manufacturing. Biden wants half of vehicles sold in the United States to be electric by 2030.
Other Asian companies that have announced plans to build U.S. battery plants include Korea's LG Energy Solution and Samsung SDI.
Reuters reported earlier this month that CATL, the world's largest battery maker, was in talks to open battery plants that would serve BMW AG and Ford with potential sites in South Carolina and Kentucky.
A South Korea media report said Yoon, who takes office on Tuesday, was also planning a follow-up visit to Washington after Biden visits Seoul, where he would be accompanied by leaders of South Korea's top conglomerates including Hyundai Motor and SK to discuss investment in the United States.
A spokeswoman for Yoon on Monday denied the plan as reported.
(Reporting by Heekyong Yang in Seoul and Ben Klayman in Detroit; additional reporting by David Shepardson in Washington Writing by Kevin Krolicki; Editing by Edmund Klamann and Nick Zieminski)