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112119-hyundai-alabama-plant_featured image.jpg Photo: Hyundai Motor Company

Hyundai plows into pickup market by expanding Alabama plant

(Bloomberg) – Hyundai Motor Co. is entering the U.S. pickup market by building a new vehicle at an existing plant in Alabama, betting it can better appeal to American consumers ditching sedans for trucks and SUVs.

The South Korean company said Wednesday it will invest $410 million at Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama, its factory in Montgomery, adding 200 jobs to start making the vehicle in 2021. While Hyundai has billed the model, called Santa Cruz, a “compact utility vehicle,” it features an open truck bed.

The U.S. manufacturing announcement is the second of the day by a major international automaker: Volkswagen AG broke ground Wednesday on a previously announced $800 million expansion of its production complex in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Perhaps not coincidentally, President Donald Trump gave himself a mid-November deadline to decide whether to put tariffs on impose levies on imported cars and auto parts. His administration is expected to delay a decision another six months.

“Our hope is that the negotiations we’ve been having with individual companies about their capital investment plans will bear enough fruit that it may not be necessary” to put levies into effect, Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross told Bloomberg Television earlier this month. “We’ve had very good conversations with our European friends, with our Japanese friends, with our Korean friends.”

Hyundai debuted the Santa Cruz as a concept nearly five years ago and has hinted in recent months it planned to produce the vehicle in the U.S. The Alabama plant, which started producing cars in 2005, employs roughly 3,000 workers making Santa Fe SUVs and the Elantra and Sonata sedans.

Adding the Santa Cruz could help make up for slack demand for the cars built in Montgomery. While sales have risen 11% for the Santa Fe this year, deliveries have dropped 16% for both the Elantra and Sonata.

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