Hyundai highlights US spending plan before Trump inaugurated

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Hyundai Motor Group said Tuesday it will significantly increase its investment in the U.S. while Donald Trump is president and is considering building a new U.S. factory, in an unusual disclosure of its mid-term investment plan in the key market. Chung Jin Haeng, a...

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Hyundai Motor Group said Tuesday it will significantly increase its investment in the U.S. while Donald Trump is president and is considering building a new U.S. factory, in an unusual disclosure of its mid-term investment plan in the key market.

Chung Jin Haeng, a president of the world's fifth-largest automotive group, said Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors and their affiliated companies will spend $3.1 billion during the five years through 2021 on research and development and maintaining their factories in Alabama and Georgia.

That represents a 50 percent increase from the $2.1 billion the companies invested in the U.S. in 2012-2016. The increased spending comes mostly from research and development, as the South Korean maker of Genesis and Tucson invests in autonomous driving, environmentally friendly cars and other future technologies.

Chung said Hyundai will study building a new U.S. factory if demand for cars rises during Trump's administration. He said the new administration's promise to create 1 million jobs and attract new companies could stimulate domestic demand for cars and other products.

"If there is such a sign, we will immediately review (the new plant)," he told reporters. "We won't miss when the time is right."

Hyundai did not provide any further details about a possible new plant.

The South Korean group does not usually disclose its five-year investment plan for specific countries, and the announcement of the U.S.-specific investment plans comes just a few days before the president-elect takes office on Friday.

Since Trump won the election, he has badgered auto companies into building their cars in the United States rather than Mexico.

The South Korean automotive conglomerate has not yet drawn public attention from the president-elect, who has threatened to impose a border tax on vehicles made in Mexico by Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co. and Toyota.

Nearly all automakers build small cars in Mexico to take advantage of its lower wages.

Hyundai is not an exception. Its first Mexico plant launched operations just two months before the Nov. 8 election. When that plant started up in September, the company said about 80 percent of the vehicles assembled there will be exported to the United States and other countries. The plant has a capacity to turn out 400,000 cars per year.

That Mexico plant is now "a source of worry" for the carmaker, Chung said, without elaborating why.

He denied that political pressure was behind the company's announcement of its U.S. investment plan.

"The U.S. market is strategically important for us," he said.

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