Hyundai on Wednesday formally opened its fifth auto plant in China, and actual production is slated to start next month despite plunging sales in the world's biggest market.
The new plant in Chongqing in southwest China can roll out 300,000 automobiles a year, and Hyundai wants to make compact cars there tailored to the tastes of Chinese customers to overcome the severe sales slump.
Hyundai vice chairman Chung Eui-son, who presided over the opening, said, "We built this plant as a smart and environmentally friendly manufacturing facility in the city of Chongqing, which is emerging as a major economic growth engine in China."
Full-scale production is to start in late August with the view to producing 30,000 cars by the end of the year.
Hyundai started building the Chongqing plant in June 2015, when sales were still booming, aiming to bolster sales in China's southwestern region. A joint venture with BAIC Motor, the plant cost US$1 billion.
The first car to roll out will be a smaller version of the Verna subcompact, and Hyundai will expand production to two more subcompacts and two compact SUVs.
With the Chongqing plant, Hyundai has five factories in China capable of rolling out 1.65 million vehicles a year. It plans to produce different strategic models at each plant and try to overcome the sales slump triggered by an unofficial boycott of Korean-made products in retaliation against the stationing of a Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense battery from the U.S. in Korea.
Hyundai recently poached Simon Loasby, a former design director for China at Volkswagen, as vice president and executive director. He will head the development of cars tailored to the Chinese market.
Hyundai vice chairman Chung Eui-sun (front left) and Chongqing Mayor Zhang Guoqing (right) take a tour of the automaker's new plant in Chongqing, China on Wednesday.