September 11, 2017 / 9:01 AM / 14 days ago

Hyundai Motor, Kia to temporarily shut down U.S. plants due to Irma

Boats are seen at a marina in Coconut Grove as Hurricane Irma arrives at south Florida, in Miami, Florida, U.S., September 10, 2017. REUTERS/Carlos Barria

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co and sister car maker Kia Motors Corp said on Monday they planned to temporarily shut down plants in the United States to avoid potential damage from Hurricane Irma.

The shut down comes at a time Hyundai’s U.S. sales have fallen more than the market average, and after it recently announced plans to expand its SUV lineup and launch a pickup truck in the market in an attempt to reverse the slide.

In a statement, Hyundai Motor said it would suspend operation of its Alabama plant for two days - between Monday and Wednesday - while Kia Motors will stop operation of its Georgia plant for one day - between Monday and Tuesday.

The suspension is expected to result in lost production of about 3,000 vehicles for both, the Yonhap news agency earlier said on Monday, citing a Hyundai Motor group spokesman. A Hyundai spokeswoman declined to comment on the number.

Hurricane Irma took aim at heavily populated areas of central Florida on Monday as it carved a path of destruction through the state with high winds and storm surges that left millions without power, ripped roofs off homes and flooded city streets.

Hyundai’s U.S. sales are down nearly 11 percent this year through July 31, worse than the overall 2.9 percent decline in U.S. car and light truck sales.

Sales of the Sonata, once a pillar of Hyundai’s U.S. franchise, have fallen 30 percent through the first seven months of 2017. In contrast, sales of Hyundai’s current SUV lineup are up 11 percent for the first seven months of this year.

Reporting by Joyce Lee; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Muralikumar Anantharaman

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