The first made-in-Georgia Kia Sportage compact SUV rolled off the line at the Korean automaker’s West Point plant Feb. 1, making the company’s oldest nameplate its newest addition to the list of models produced in the state.
The Sportage has been around since the 1990s, though the newly revamped 2023 edition shares little in common with its austere ancestor. The gleaming vehicle driven off the line by Gov. Brian Kemp and Kia Vice President James Watson sported a bold jungle green and boasted the new X-Pro light off-road package. It features two 12-inch touchscreens on the instrument panel and for its “infotainment” system.
Before the Sportage, the plant was already producing three models: the Telluride SUV, the K5 sedan and the Sorento SUV — the latter being the only model whose production started with the plant’s commissioning in 2009. The company has not announced any increase to its annual production capacity, which still stands at 340,000 vehicles per year.
With employees, dignitaries including the Korean Consul General Yoonjoo Park and state officials assembled, the company’s leaders praised the Georgia-based workforce for reaching another milestone.
“Today’s ceremony is another phenomenal accomplishment by the Kia Georgia team and I hope that each team member will take a lot of pride in being a part of this special day,” said Stuart Countess, who was recently elevated to CEO of Kia Georgia.
Kia North America President and CEO Sean Yoon also was on hand to mark the occasion, in which the car rolled off the line onto a red carpet in view of spectators.
A version of the Sportage designed specifically for the European market made a similarly flashy entry at Kia’s plant in October in Žilina, Slovakia, which the company calls the “spiritual home” of the model due to its production of many different generations of Sportage over the years. The all-new European version’s drivetrain is to include a plug-in hybrid version.
Kia’s first fully electrified crossover, the EV6, is set to begin deliveries in a few weeks. It’s unclear how much of the company’s bold EV investment plan will lead to increase investment in its infrastructure within Georgia.