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Louisiana bids for Hyundai plant

Gov. Bobby Jindal meets with Hyundai Motor CEO to offer a deal

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Published : 2014-01-16 20:23
Updated : 2014-01-16 20:23

Hyundai Motor Group chairman Chung Mong-koo (left) and Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal

The U.S. southern state of Louisiana this week stepped up its push to get Hyundai Motor to build a plant there to help create jobs and boost the local economy.

On Tuesday, Louisiana state Gov. Bobby Jindal visited the world’s sixth-largest carmaker’s headquarters to meet with Hyundai Motor president Chung Jin-haeng in southern Seoul to discuss the deal in further detail.

Industry watchers said there was a high possibility of Hyundai meeting Louisiana’s demands, since Hyundai is in need of increasing production in North America, while Louisiana is pressed to fill in the vacuum created by the shutdown of a GM plant there.

A Hyundai Motor spokesperson tried to downplay the meeting, saying that things have to be decided.

In the U.S., Hyundai and Kia sold a combined 1,255,962 cars last year, down about 0.4 percent from 2012. The company’s U.S. market share slipped to 8.1 percent, down about 0.6 percentage point from 2012.

Dave Zuchowski, CEO of Hyundai Motor America, blamed it on a supply shortage.

“Hyundai is growing very fast, but production on a global basis is very constrained. We haven’t been able to build as many cars as the market has demanded,” he said in his interview with The Korea Herald last year. Hyundai set this year’s sales goal at 1.3 million.

Mexico, as previously reported by The Korea Herald, also has emerged as a possible locale for Hyundai’s third plant.

Louisiana, however, may have a better shot, as its capital Baton Rouge is less than 600 kilometers from Hyundai’s Alabama plant and 700 kilometers from Kia’s Georgia factory.

“The proximity of Hyundai’s Alabama and Georgia plants may work as a sweetener in the deal, since it could create synergy among the plants and subcontractors by reducing logistics and other matters,” an observer said.

Louisiana is currently said to be desperate to find an investor after General Motors’ plant shut down in 2012.

Jindal, who was placed sixth on the Washington Post’s list of potential Republican presidential candidates for the 2016 election, is expected to have offered a generous incentive package to Hyundai, including tax and other monetary incentives.

This can be assumed through previous deals, such as one with Elio Motor, which is expected to hire 1,500 people in the area by 2015. Louisiana has reportedly given tax breaks including a yearly payroll rebate of 13 percent to Elio Motor. Considering Hyundai’s Alabama plant would create more than 3,200 jobs, the offer may have been large, the sources said.

Jindal’s office earlier said that the governor and his team were meeting with leaders of companies, most of which are considering projects in Louisiana.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)

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