Hyundai to Build Test Center in Mojave

Times Staff Writer

Hyundai Motor Co. said Monday that it would begin construction this year on a $50-million center in the Mojave Desert near California City to test vehicles being designed for North America.

The facility, to be operated by the South Korean automaker's Hyundai American Test Center Inc., will be used by Hyundai and its Kia subsidiary and is expected to employ 40 people. Construction is expected to be completed late next year.

Hyundai and Kia -- which sold 612,464 vehicles in the United States last year, for a 3.6% market share -- recently began a campaign to boost its presence here. Hyundai is building a $1-billion manufacturing plant in Montgomery, Ala., and early next month will open a $24-million design center in Irvine that will be used by both companies.

The U.S. import and distribution units of both Hyundai and Kia are in Orange County, and the group operates a California emissions test center in Chino.

The 4,300-acre Mojave proving ground will include a 6.4-mile oval test track; a vehicle- handling course; several special roads to test vehicle performance on rough, slick, bumpy, wet and hilly surfaces; and a 30,000-square-foot office and indoor testing complex.

Hyundai Motor America spokesman Chris Hosford said tests would include "heat soak," in which vehicles are left in the sun for weeks to gauge the effect on plastics and other materials.

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