The new plant employs 1,300, some of whom were trained in Korea or the Czech Republic

The new plant employs 1,300, some of whom were trained in Korea or the Czech Republic

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Hyundai has officially started production at its new Russian assembly plant in St Petersburg, completed last August and employing 1,300.

The first car being produced at the facility is the Solaris. First shown as the Concept RB at the Moscow motor show, it is a lightly restyled sedan derived from the Accent/Verna sold elsewhere and engineered specifically for the Russian climate. Features include keyless access and start, Bluetooth and six airbags.

Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Russia (HMMR) is Hyundai's sixth overseas manufacturing facility.

“This is a historic moment, not only for Hyundai, but for Russia, as we are the first foreign automaker to operate a full-cycle manufacturing plant here,” said Gui-Il Chun, general director of HMMR, a fully-owned subsidiary of Hyundai Motor Company. “We are now truly part of Russia and we will focus on supplying customers with the best products at the best time.”

Many of the 1,300 newly hired workerswere trained at Hyundai factories in Korea and the Czech Republic. Hyundai said in September that it aimed to create 5,300 jobs by 2012, together with 11 parts suppliers.

HMMR is equipped with the latest assembly technology, providing a high level of automation in the production process. At several stations, 85% of the welding is automated.

The plant’s annual capacity is 150,000 vehicles, while this year’s production target is 105,000 units.

In addition to the new Russian plant, Hyundai Motor has overseas manufacturing facilities in China, India, the United States, Turkey and the Czech Republic. HMMR is part of Hyundai’s strategy of building assembly sites in the fast-growing BRIC countries. It began construction of a third plant in China late last year and plans to break ground later this year on a plant in Brazil.

The Solaris is powered by Hyundai’s Gamma engine built in 1.4- and 1.6-litre versions.

For Russia, engineers raised the car's ground clearance to 160mm. Other 'harsh weather' changes include a larger than average four-litre washer fluid reservoir with fluid level warning, a 60Ah battery for improved cold-start performance and a heater duct for rear passengers. Options include front seat heaters, side mirror heaters and a heater for the windshield wiper rest.

The vehicle name was chosen by public contest in Russia. According to the automaker, 'Solaris', derived from the Latin Sol, "implies Hyundai Motor's strong will to expand its business in the Russian Federation".