Activity at the Kia Motors assembly plant in West Point is picking up as the start of production draws closer.
The South Korean company is on schedule to begin mass production of the Sorento Crossover Utility Vehicle the middle of next month in its first U.S. plant.
Last week, about 850 Kia dealers from across the country toured the plant and took the new vehicle for test drives.
“It went well,” Kia Motors Georgia Human Resources Director and Administrator Randy Jackson said Monday.
It went better than that, said Kia AutoSport of Columbus General Manager Ed Braun, who was in the group.
“The dealers were ecstatic about the new product,” Braun said. “The new Sorento is going to be awesome.”
Kia Parkway, which runs between the plant and Interstate 85 was closed for the dealers to test drive the redesigned Sorento. An obstacle course was set up so the dealers could get a better feel for the vehicle.
The dealers also got a tour of the plant and the production process.
“Most dealers have seen plants, but I don’t think they have seen one like this one,” Braun said. “It is massive, but it also has the latest and greatest technology.”
The Kia plant now has 1,200 employees, Jackson said. It will employ about 1,250 hourly workers by the time production begins. That is half the 2,500 jobs that were promised when Georgia landed the plant in 2006.
Another 1,250 hourly workers will be hired early next year as the manufacturer gears up for a second production line.
Jackson said a month ago that Kia was considering reopening the application process as the second round of hiring begins. Two years ago, more than 43,000 people applied with Kia through the Georgia Department of Labor. That pool is what Kia has been drawing on for hires.
No decision has been finalized on reopening the process, though Jackson said Kia and state officials were meeting this week to discuss the matter.