By on July 15, 2013


Ever since Isaac Singer figured that he could make more money making sewing machines for the European market in a factory near Glasgow rather than export them from his Elizabeth, New Jersey plant, manufacturing companies have built products where they’ve sold them.

Last Thursday a pearl white 2014 Sorento SXL trundled off an assembly line in West Point, Georgia. It was the millionth Kia that the Korean company has assembled in the United States, all accomplished in less than four years. Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia (KMMG) started building Sorento crossovers in late 2009, and added production of the mid-size Optima sedan after a $100 million expansion of the billion dollar West Point facility in 2012.  Surprisingly, the landmark Sorento will not be headed to a Kia museum somewhere. It will be allocated to one of Kia’s 765 or so U.S. dealers for regular retail sale, so if you’re a Kia enthusiast who wants a piece of Kia history, you’ll have a chance to buy it. I’m not sure how you would locate the lucky dealer, though. Total capacity of the KMMG factory is now 360,000 vehicles, so as long as the company’s North American sales continue to be strong, they should produce the next million U.S. built Kia even faster than the first.

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5 Comments on “You Can Buy The Millionth U.S. Built Kia...”

  • avatar

    Yes, but the question is; do I want to?

  • avatar

    The original “government motors”

    “The situation deteriorated further in July 1997 when Kia, Korea’s third largest car company, ran out of cash and asked for an emergency bank loan to avoid bankruptcy. At about the same time Jinaro, Korea’s largest liquor group, filed for bankruptcy. These events prompted international credit agencies to start downgrading the ratings of banks with heavy exposure to the chaebol. This raised the borrowing costs of the banks, and led them to tighten credit, making it even more difficult for debt heavy chaebol to borrow additional funds. By October 1997 it was clear that additional funds for Kia would not be forthcoming from private banks, so the government took the company into public ownership in order to stave off bankruptcy and job losses. This followed hard on the heels of a decision by the Korean government to invest an equity stake in Korea First Bank, to stop that institution from collapsing due to a its bad loans. The nationalization of Kia transformed its private sector debt into public sector debt. Standard & Poor’s, the US credit rating agency, immediately downgraded Korea’s debt, causing the Korean stock market to plunge 5.5%, and the currency, the Korean won, to fall to $1=Krw929.5. According to S&P, “the downgrade of…..ratings reflects the escalating cost to the government of supporting the country’s ailing corporate and financial sectors.””

    • 0 avatar

      Shortly before this happened, my old man was brought on to help launch Kia in Canada. The BK was quite a setback for their plans, but a few years later, he was back helping them get launched here. I’ve asked him to write about it, but confidentiality issues prevent this.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    Please correct me if I’m wrong, but wasn’t this the time when the Korean government re-organized the Chaebols, and ordered Hyundai to move out of electronics and ordered Samsung to move out of vehicle production?

    If so, the strategy appears to have worked.

    • 0 avatar

      Often government intervention in the business community works much to the dismay of fundamentalist libertarians, Japan and South Korea have become masters of it. The unfortunate thing is rightwing Americans hold these companies up as examples of free market capitalism working when the reverse is true.

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