Hyundai pledges to invest $3.1 billion in the U.S.

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Hyundai pledges to invest $3.1 billion in the U.S.

Hyundai Motor Group on Tuesday vowed to invest $3.1 billion in the United States over the next five years amid rising pressure from U.S. President-elect Donald J. Trump on foreign automakers to beef up their American manufacturing facilities.

The amount is 50 percent more than what Hyundai invested in the United States from 2012 to 2016, which was $2.1 billion.

The investment plan was made public after Chung Jin-haeng, president of Korea’s No. 1 automaker and the world’s fifth, told foreign correspondents in Seoul on Tuesday that a significant portion of the investment will be made to existing production lines in the United States and to research and development of future auto technologies including autonomous driving and emission-free cars.

“The U.S. market is strategically a very important market for us, and success or failure there is a barometer of our success globally,” Chung was quoted as saying by Bloomberg News.

Chung said the company is considering adding a new production line in the United States, possibly to produce Hyundai Motor’s luxury label Genesis locally if there is enough demand. Genesis vehicles are currently manufactured in Korea and exported to overseas markets.

A Hyundai Motor Group spokesman denied a direct relationship with the investment announcement and the fact that Trump assumes the office of president this week.

“Investments are made every year because the U.S. is such an important market,” the spokesman said. “It doesn’t have any relationship with Trump’s recent moves.”

Hyundai Motor, the bigger affiliate of the group, has been running a factory in Alabama since 2005 capable of making 370,000 units a year, while its sister company Kia Motors has one in Georgia that produces 360,000 vehicles a year at full capacity.

Global automakers are facing challenges from the Trump administration to stop importing cars made in Mexico or start paying an import tax of up to 35 percent.

Ford and General Motors recently gave in to Trump’s months of threats and announced plans to invest in U.S. plants to generate more jobs.

This month, Trump started targeting foreign carmakers. That caused alarm at Kia Motors, which recently built a plant in Pesqueria, Mexico, that has the capacity to produce 400,000 vehicles a year, 80 percent of which are to be exported to the United States.

BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]

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