Hyundai struggles to celebrate Beijing plant

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Hyundai struggles to celebrate Beijing plant

Hyundai Motor seems to be in limbo regarding the completion ceremony for its third plant in China as the company keeps delaying the event.

The nation’s No. 1 automaker earlier last week announced that the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the plant in Beijing will be held tomorrow, but the plan was abruptly cancelled late Friday.

Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo and top officials from the Chinese government were scheduled to attend the ceremony and officially celebrate the completion. However, the automaker said that there was a scheduling conflict in getting all the VIPs at the same place at the same time.

“The revised date for the ceremony isn’t yet confirmed, but we are working with the Chinese government to set up the schedule again,” an employee from Hyundai Motor said.

This was not the first time the company has delayed an event to accommodate VIPs. In September 2010, the company delayed its completion ceremony for a plant in Saint Petersburg, Russia to make sure Vladmir Putin, who was then prime minister, could make it.

Chung and other employees had to go Russia during the Chuseok holiday for the event.

Industry watchers said that Hyundai is in a hurry because the plant in China has been operating for nearly two months.

The plant was finished in June after 19 months of construction, and started to operate from July, making it a bit of an awkward moment for the automaker to have a completion ceremony.

The plant produces the Langdong, a Chinese version of the Elantra compact-sized vehicle.

It is also expected to become a production base for the new Santa Fe, a sports utility vehicle.

The plant can produce 400,000 units in a year, the largest volume among Hyundai’s plants. With the new plant, Hyundai’s total annual production capacity in China has reached one million units.

The company already has two facilities with annual production capacities of 300,000 units each.

The first facility in China opened in 2002, and the second plant started production in 2008.

All three facilities are operated by Beijing Hyundai Motor, a 50-50 joint venture between Hyundai and Beijing Automotive Group.

Industry analysts are also saying that since China is a market where government support and interest have a big influence on the company’s sales, the automaker is probably making big efforts to invite top officials of the Chinese government to the completion ceremony.

Hyundai is also eager to claw back in the world’s biggest auto market.

It sold about 372,000 vehicles in the January-June period for a 5 percent market share, down from 5.4 percent in the same period last year, according to the data released by China Passenger Car Association (CPCA).

By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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