Kia said it had begun commercial production of its first battery electric vehicle (BEV) in the US at its existing plant in West Point, Georgia.

Executives including president and CEO of Kia’s operations in the Americas SeungKyu Yoon and Kia Georgia’s vice president of production James Watson, along with Georgia governor Brian Kemp, gathered at the plant to celebrate the start of production of the 2025 EV9 three row SUV.

Kia said it invested US$200m to expand capacity and to add the “flexibility to assemble both EVs and the company’s traditional products on the same assembly line”.

The investment also created 200 new jobs.

Kia sold 320,531 vehicles in the US in the first five months of 2024, down slightly from 323,838 in the same period of last year, with the Sportage SUV its most popular model with 66,537 sales, followed by the Forte sedan with 59,115 units and the Telluride SUV with 44,842 units.

In terms of BEVs, the company sold 8,770 EV6 and 7,766 EV9 models year to date, all imported from South Korea.

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The Georgia plant, completed in 2009, has capacity for 340,000 units per year and currently produces the Telluride, Sorento and Sportage SUVs.

Kia would also benefit from the start of production of Hyundai Motor Group’s new Metaplant is scheduled to be completed later this year in Savannah, also in Georgia, to produce BEVs and plug in hybrids to be sold in North America under the Hyundai, Genesis and Kia brands.

Yoon said: “[The] launch of the EV9 in Georgia is the latest example of [our] commitment to the US market and the state of Georgia.”