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Team members work on the Sonata and Elantra at Hyundai Motor Manufacturing of Alabama in January. The Montgomery plant has added a third shift of vehicle assembly.

The new third shift at Montgomery’s Hyundai facility “hit the ground running” Tuesday, the same day the company announced record-breaking August U.S. sales figures that underscored the facility’s importance.

“So far, so good,” Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama spokesman Robert Burns said Wednesday. “We’ve got a great crop of new team members who are gelling with the system.”

Hyundai Motor America sold 61,099 units in August, breaking the record the company set during the federal Cash for Clunkers program in August 2009. Sales of the Montgomery-made Elantra were up almost 3,000 units over August 2011.

“With today’s launch of the third shift at our Alabama plant where the Elantra and Sonata are built, and the launch of our all-new Santa Fe, built in Georgia, we’re feeling better about our ability to meet consumer demand for Hyundai cars and crossovers,” President and CEO of Hyundai Motor America John Krafcik said in releasing the figures.

HMMA’s additional shift could be even more important to the company because Hyundai recently announced plans to halt expansions worldwide, despite problems meeting consumer demand, in order to focus on quality.

In addition to the new Montgomery shift, Hyundai plans to open a 400,000-capacity plant in China. There’s also a new 150,000-capacity factory under way in Brazil and a 100,000-capacity expansion in Turkey.

“Once these are all online, that’s where we’re going to take the pause for a little while,” Hyundai Motor Co. global spokesman Frank Ahrens said while visiting the Montgomery facility earlier this summer.

Late last month, Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong-koo underlined the importance of Montgomery’s Hyundai facility when he traveled here to meet with its workers. Burns said Chung praised employees for the job they’ve done working long hours during the past two years before the new shift began ramping up.

HMMA added 877 positions to support the addition of the third shift, bringing the total number of jobs created at the plant to more than 3,000. The goal is to increase 2012 production capacity by about 20,000 units, and Burns said HMMA is optimistic it can hit that target.

HMMA produces most of the cars that the company sells in the United States, and America now has passed Korea to land at No. 2 in worldwide sales regions for the company. At 356,000 sales through the first half of 2012, the U.S. is “nipping on China’s heels” for first place, Ahrens said.

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