LISTEN: The IONIQ 5 crossover will be the first vehicle manufactured later this year at Hyundai's new EV factory near Savannah. GPB's Benjamin Payne reports.

A 2024 Hyundai IONIQ 5, photographed in downtown Savannah.

A 2024 Hyundai IONIQ 5, photographed in downtown Savannah.

Credit: Hyundai Motor Group Metaplant America

South Korean automaker Hyundai announced Tuesday that its top-selling electric vehicle, the IONIQ 5, will be the first model to roll off the assembly line at its $7.6 billion EV and battery plant currently under construction in Bryan County near Savannah.

Production of the 2025 IONIQ 5 is expected to begin at what the company calls its "Metaplant" sometime between October and December this year — a timeframe ahead of the company's originally scheduled goal of early 2025.

Eventually the Metaplant will become Hyundai's sole facility for manufacturing IONIQ 5 vehicles for sale in the U.S. market, but the company did not provide a timeline for when that may occur.

Although the building is still under construction, test production of vehicles has already begun, with another round scheduled to begin Thursday, according to Hyundai Metaplant communications director Joe LaMuraglia.

“It's all about training,” he told GPB. "We call our employees ‘Meta Pros.’ All of our Meta Pros that are hourly workers, that will be working on the line [and] have been training for months, being paid to train — now they're getting into the factory and actually getting to do what they were trained to do. And that's really exciting.”

The Metaplant and its onsite suppliers will collectively create 8,500 direct jobs, according to Hyundai, with economic ripple effects extending well beyond the 2,900-acre site off Interstate 16.

“20 years ago, we opened up a plant in Alabama,” LaMuraglia said, referring to Hyundai's factory in Montgomery. “One of my colleagues — and one of the executives in the company — came from that facility, and he basically said they recreated the middle class. And that's what we hope to do here.”

Hyundai and its suppliers may soon be grappling with a workforce shortage: according to a recent economic development study, 1,454 industrial jobs are projected to be unfilled in 2025 — a trend projected to worsen until 2027, when the labor supply catches up.