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Posted on Thu, Nov 19, 2009 : 6:15 a.m.

Ann Arbor area's Hyundai-Kia America Technical Center emerges strong from auto crisis

By Nathan Bomey

Hyundai Ann Arbor 2.JPG

The Hyundai-Kia America Technical Center in Superior Township has avoided job cuts during the auto crisis.

Angela J. Cesere |

Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group’s smooth navigation of the global auto crisis has shielded the Korean automaker’s Ann Arbor area engineering operation from job cuts and positioned the facility for future growth.

“Right now we’re pretty comfortable where we are,” said Dan Bedore, manager of Midwest media relations for Hyundai. “(But) there’s plenty of room for growth in the facility.”

The Superior Township-based Hyundai-Kia America Technical Center, which employs about 170 workers, has steadily gained more responsibility during the auto crisis. The Hyundai and Kia brands have collectively grown their North American market share from about 5.2 percent in 2008 to as much as 7.4 percent in 2009, according to various reports.

The company’s South Korea base has been delegating more work to the Superior Township operation in recent months as the local engineers show their value to the company, Bedore said.

The 200,000-square-foot building is positioned on a 140-acre parcel, which is comparable in size to the mammoth ex-Pfizer land in northern Ann Arbor.

Hyundai Ann Arbor 1.JPG

Senior engineer Tim Peterson works at the engine dynamometer lab at Hyundai-Kia America Technical Center in Superior Township.

Angela J. Cesere |

Hyundai’s vehicle sales increased 49 percent in October 2009 from a year earlier, and Kia’s sales increased 45 percent. Toyota, by contrast, increased sales 1 percent, General Motors 4.7 percent and Ford 3.3 percent.

High marks for quality, intuitive marketing campaigns, cost-effectiveness and fuel efficiency are boosting Hyundai and Kia, experts say.

“They’re a pretty aggressive company right now,” said Bruce Belzowski, assistant research scientist at the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. “They’re working really hard to gain market share in whatever area they’re at. It’s something that they’re going to continue to do.”

Hyundai-Kia America Technical Center

Location: Geddes Road in Superior Township
Size: 200,000-square-foot facility; 140 acres of land
Employees: 170
Stability: No job cuts during auto crisis
Function: Engineering, design, compliance, safety testing, simulation
Local history: 1986, opened an Ann Arbor lab near the Plymouth Road EPA emissions facility; fall 2005, expanded to Superior Township location

Direct injection
engine revealed

Hyundai-Kia on Friday is expected to show media a new four-cylinder engine developed in part at the Superior Township facility. It's reportedly Hyundai's first direct injection engine, technology that provides incremental fuel efficiency improvements.

The new engine will be used in the 2011 Hyundai Sonata, the automaker's best selling model, a sedan that competes directly with the Toyota Camry and Chevrolet Malibu.

Hyundai-Kia officials recently gave an exclusive tour of the Superior Township facility, the first media tour since the technical center opened its doors in fall 2005. The multi-purpose facility has grown to 170 employees and avoided job cuts during the economic crisis.

-Nathan Bomey,

Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm said in 2005 that Hyundai-Kia would hire 600 workers over several years at its Superior Township facility.

The subsequent collapse in the auto industry has made growth of that kind unlikely. But Hyundai-Kia’s stability allowed the company to shield its workers from job cuts - a sharp contrast with the rest of the industry. The company currently has job openings for three engineers in Superior Township.

“It was an extremely challenging year for the entire industry this year and (we) did not let people go in the midst of that. In fact, we added a few jobs,” Bedore said.

Doug Fox, owner of the Ann Arbor Automotive dealership on Jackson Road, which sells Hyundai and Kia vehicles, said sales have increased because Hyundai-Kia vehicles achieve cost efficiency without giving up quality or styling.

“The market seems to be headed in that direction,” said Fox, also chairman of the North American International Auto Show. “We’re just very, very fortunate to have these value-oriented brands.”

Improvements in quality have placed the company on par with its top competitors, a remarkable reversal since the company’s early days, when subpar quality pummeled its U.S. reputation. The automaker’s new luxury vehicle, the Genesis, won the North American Car of the Year at January’s Detroit auto show.

“They actually have pretty good cars now, and their quality is significantly better than it used to be,” Belzowski said.

Fuel efficiency is partly driving Hyundai’s strategy. New federal regulations implemented by the Obama administration earlier this year require auto companies’ vehicles to average 35 miles per gallon by 2022. Hyundai said it would meet that figure by 2015, in part by introducing its first hybrid to the U.S. market in late 2010.

“It’s our intention to be the leader in fuel economy of all automakers,” Bedore said.

Contact’s Nathan Bomey at (734) 623-2587 or You can also follow him on Twitter.



Thu, Nov 19, 2009 : 7:02 p.m.

Hyundai and Kia sales up 49 and 45 percent. Hmmm let's see, The cars are cheap and Hyundai/Kia financing still buys lower tier credit might have something to do with those numbers since were in a recession! Ford,Toyota,Gmac etc,are not financing customer's with repos and forclosure's.


Thu, Nov 19, 2009 : 3:36 p.m.

John Galt: You forgot to mention the billion dollar assembly plant Hyundai built in Alabama. But then there is the joint Chrysler, Mitsubishi, and Hyundai engine plant that was built recently and is in operation just to our south, in Dundee. So it isn't all bad news for employment in this state. We do have facilities in and around Ann Arbor from many of the European and Asian manufacturers for a reason however. That's because the EPA's testing and certification lab is here - located just north of the UofM North Campus on Plymouth Road. I know I'm going to forget someone, but in addition to the Hyundai/Kia facility that's the subject of this story we also have Mercedes, Toyota, Mitsubishi, Subaru, and Lotus in the county. By the way, I've heard Hyundai also employes a group of contract test drivers who work out of their Superior Township facility, and I'm not sure we should count them as "white collar" workers.

John Galt

Thu, Nov 19, 2009 : 12:08 p.m.

If we didn't have such an anti-business attitude in Michigan, we would have been the first choice location for all those Mercedes, BMW, Toyota, and Honda plants that were built over the past couple decades. It would have been logical to locate them in the Detroit area to take advantage of the local talent, proximity to suppliers, available industrial real estate, etc. However, the Unions drove them away. The only jobs they are willing to place here are non-union white collar jobs. Too bad. Instead we have zombie government controlled companies and Ford. When will the State wake up? How much more pain do we need to take to make some serious changes?

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Nov 19, 2009 : 11:22 a.m.

By way of disclosure I lived in Ypsilanti from 1961 to 1982. I moved to Ann Arbor in 1982 where I currently reside. My 3 daughters went to Ann Arbor schools, then went to Eastern and graduated from EMU. My dad was a professor at EMU back in the 60's. So I have ties to both communities. It is my observation that the Ann Arbor "community" is more than happy to "hijack" a positive story from a Superior township story with an Ypsilanti postal address. On the other hand if, heaven forbid, there was a double homicide at that location I bet it would suddenly be an "Ypsilanti area" business. Just my opinion.

Paula Gardner

Thu, Nov 19, 2009 : 10:33 a.m.

I appreciate the headline comments - I actually added that to the headline this morning, as I noticed that a location wasn't in the first version. When I did that, I was thinking that people here will know where it is from the content. The print version, for example, didn't have a location and I can't say (based on how I read it, but tell me if I'm wrong...) that it needed it. When I picked "Ann Arbor" I was considering how people from outside this area or even out of state, via our Mlive links, would see/understand the geography. I can add "area" to the headline for clarity.


Thu, Nov 19, 2009 : 10:14 a.m.

Yeah... Even Hyundai doesn't claim they're in Ann Arbor any longer. The Technical Center's web site ( correctly says they're located in Superior Township. They did have an address with an Ann Arbor Zip Code, when the facility was in Pittsfield Township however. That was before the current location was built. Maybe "Superior Township" or "Washtenaw County" was too long to fit into the headline...

Craig Lounsbury

Thu, Nov 19, 2009 : 9:02 a.m.

Not to nitpick your headline but the Tech center has an Ypsilanti zip code. I imagine it is in the Ypsilanti school district too.