Construction of Kia Motors’ new car factory, near of Zilina in Slovakia, is ahead of schedule with 1,000 workers on site, the Hyundai unit said in its latest update.

The first European-built cars are scheduled to leave the €1.0 billion facility in December 2006. The 180,000 square metre building will occupy a 168 hectare site and could make up to 300,000 vehicles a year.

Kia has received more than 10,000 applications for jobs at the plant and will initially directly employ 2,400 during the start-up period and up to 3,100 people across three shifts when manufacturing reaches full capacity.

The automaker claims 10,000 jobs will be created either directly or indirectly in the region as around 12 component manufacturers – including Hyundai Mobis, Hyundai Hysco, Johnson Controls and PHA (Arvin Mentor) – plan satellite plants at industrial parks in Slovakia to supply the Kia plant.

A glass-faced central control tower will give managers an overview of the major production processes including the press shop, body shop, paint shop and final assembly areas and an open garden will be provided for staff relaxation.

The final assembly shop will have a transparent roof to admit daylight.

Kia plans a large trial production batch of cars to prove processes and quality before full-scale production begins.

Annual vehicle output of 100,000 units is planned for 2007 – the first full year – and 200,000 by the end of 2008. By 2010, Kia expects to supply up to 40% of European demand from Slovakia.

“We are confident that 500,000 annual sales and a 3% market share for Kia across the wider European market will be achievable by 2008,” a spokesman said.