The first Georgia-made Kia Tellurides to be exported started their journey overseas Tuesday as the eight-seater SUVs were loaded at the Port of Brunswick en route to buyers in the Middle East.
The first shipment, handled by auto shipper Hyundai Glovis (part of Kia’s sister company Hyundai’s group of companies) included about 250 Tellurides headed for Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and beyond.
Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia, the West Point factory churning out the Korean-owned vehicles, is planning to make 60,000 of its all-new SUVs this year. They’re already arriving at U.S. dealerships and are on sale now.
But the Korean-owned company also plans to export about 5 percent of that annual production, or about 3,000 vehicles. Other models made at the Georgia plant — the mid-size Sorento compact utility vehicle and the Optima sedan — also maintain a healthy export business, mainly to the NAFTA region and other Western Hemisphere markets.
The first Telluride shipment left days after U.S. President Donald Trump took delivery of a Commerce Department report he commissioned on whether the importation of cars poses a national security threat. He is aiming to determine whether to take tariff action to protect U.S. auto makers.
Some worry that any tariff moves would prompt retaliation from trading partners, threatening exports like the Tellurides and other more significant foreign-owned exports like BMW in South Carolina — the top exporter of vehicles in the U.S.
The Georgia Ports Authority issued a news release highlighting the way Kia uses trade on both ends — importing auto parts via Savannah, building the vehicles in West Point, then shipping worldwide out of Brunswick, a key automotive port. Kia sends finished Tellurides to Brunswick, where a company called International Auto Processing washes and wraps the vehicles, installs tow hooks, adjusts tire pressure and performs other services before they are loaded into the belly of the ship.
These globalized supply chains are what trade advocates worry Mr. Trump’s trade war is already beginning to jeopardize.