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Hyundai Could Double Down

Production line at Hyundai Motor America assembly plant in Hope Hull, Ala. near Montgomery.

Production line at Hyundai Motor America assembly plant in Hope Hull, Ala. near Montgomery.

Hyundai's auto plant outside Montgomery is running all out — two 10-hour shifts a day and weekend shifts when possible — but it still can't keep up with demand. So the Korean auto company, which has picked up a wicked increase in U.S. market share during the recession, is pondering a second U.S. plant.

Hyundai Motor America CEO, John Krafcik in January told reporters at the Detroit Auto Show the decision on a second plant will depend on 2011 sales performance.

Hyundai’s Alabama plant produces the Sonata and the Elantra, its two hottest sellers. In order to build more Sonatas in Montgomery, Hyundai moved production of the Santa Fe SUV to the sister Kia’s manufacturing plant in West Point, Ga. And that put the Alabama plant at a maxed output of 300,500 vehicles a year.

Hyundai still has been unable to meet the demand, Hyundai’s sales head, Dave Zuchowski, told reporters at the Detroit Auto Show. He said he expects demand for the  2011 Elantra will be even than for the Sonata, and meeting demands for both will be extremely difficult.

Where Hyundai would build a second U.S. plant remains to be battled over, and the players have begun their scrums. Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange told WSFA TV, in late January, "We anticipate in the next week or two to have a conversation with the senior leadership at Hyundai and to explain to them eye-to-eye that we desire to have that expansion here in Montgomery, Alabama."

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