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(LEAD) (Yonhap Interview) Samsong Industries to invest US$15 mln in Mexico: ProMexico chief

2018/05/23 20:31

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By Kim Kwang-tae

SEOUL, May 23 (Yonhap) -- Samsong Industries Co. a seat-belt supplier for Kia Motors Corp., will build a US$15 million plant in Mexico, a top Mexican official said Wednesday, in the latest investment by a South Korean company in the large, growing economy.

The initial investment, in the northern Mexico state of Coahuila, will generate about 400 direct jobs in Mexico, Paulo Carreno-King, CEO of ProMexico, the agency of the Mexican federal government in charge of attracting foreign direct investment, said as he welcomed Samsong's move. Coahuila is a neighbor state of Nuevo Leon, where the Kia Motors plant is located.

"We believe that this investment is a clear sign that important companies like Samsong, what they see in our country, a very bright future and what they see in the present, which is already a cluster, but it's very significant for the whole region, for the whole North American region," Carreno-King said in an interview with Yonhap News Agency at the Mexican Embassy in central Seoul.

The head of Samsong was not immediately available for comment.

Mexico -- the seventh-largest car producer in the world and the fourth-largest exporter of light vehicles -- provides companies with access to the United States car market, one of the world's largest, and other Latin American countries.

The Kia Motors plant -- opened in 2016 -- produces the K2 subcompact, K3 compact models, as well as Hyundai Motor Co.'s Accent subcompact.

Kia currently produces 280,000 units and plans to boost its annual capacity to 400,000 units in less than two years, according to Carreno-King.

Carreno-King heaped praise on South Korea's second-largest carmaker for its robust sales of what he calls very unique high-quality cars.

In less than two years, Kia has achieved sales figures that other carmakers took 15 years to reach, he said.

Kia Motors said it sold 30,704 vehicles in Mexico in the January-April period, up 17.1 percent from a year earlier. Kia's bigger affiliate, Hyundai Motor, sold 16,317 units in Mexico in the cited period, up 22.7 percent from a year earlier.

"I always hope that Kia will make new investment in Mexico," said Carreno-King, who arrived in Seoul earlier in the day for a series of meetings with South Korean business executives.

He said he had a very fruitful meeting with a senior vice president of Hyundai Motor on the topic of Kia's investment in Mexico, though he did not elaborate.

Hyundai Motor Group -- whose flagship units include Hyundai Motor and Kia -- said it has no immediate plan to expand its plant in Mexico.

Carreno-King is also set to hold separate "cordiality meetings" with the President of the Consumer Electronics Business of Samsung Electronics and a senior vice president of leading steelmaker POSCO, as well as other South Korean executives, before returning home Thursday.

As of 2016, 183 South Korean companies were operating in Mexico, according to the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.

South Korea and Mexico launched free trade talks in 2007, but negotiations have been stalled since 2008 due to strong opposition from the Mexican automobile industry.

Trade volume between the two countries stood at US$15.3 billion last year, up from $4.2 billion in 2005.

entropy@yna.co.kr

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