Speech by PM Lee Hsien Loong at the Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Centre Groundbreaking Ceremony on 13 October 2020.
Your Excellency Mr Sung Yun-mo, Minister of Trade, Industry & Energy, Republic of Korea
Mr Chung Eui-sun, Executive Vice Chairman, Hyundai
Colleagues and friends of Singapore
A very good morning to all of you. I am delighted to join you today at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Hyundai Motor Group Innovation Centre in Singapore, or HMGICS.
Despite COVID-19, companies like Hyundai are continuing to expand and grow. I am happy that Hyundai has chosen Singapore to locate your newest facility. Singapore’s relationship with Hyundai goes back a long way. It started when Hyundai Engineering and Construction (HDEC) helped us reclaim land at Pulau Tekong in 1981, nearly 40 years ago. This was one of HDEC’s flagship projects.
Since then, HDEC has participated in more than 80 reclamation projects in Singapore. Hyundai also did other major construction projects here, for example the Jurong Rock Caverns and the Downtown Line. As for Hyundai Motor the first Hyundai cars appeared on our roads in the mid-1980s. Older Singaporeans will remember the Stellar saloon and the Excel hatchback. In your first year of operations you sold just 273 cars, but that number grew rapidly year by year. In fact, in 2018, the Hyundai Elantra was Singapore’s best-selling sedan car!
HMGICS is a major step forward for Hyundai Motor. The facility is the first of its kind in the world. It will enable Hyundai to develop new automotive technologies, including for the production of electric cars. It will also allow you to pilot new manufacturing models, to meet the demand for mass personalisation of cars through small-scale factories in urban areas. It is an investment of almost $400 million, and may produce up to 30,000 vehicles per year by 2025, five years from now. Siting the facility here takes advantage of Singapore’s strengths, for example in advanced manufacturing and logistics.
Your new facility will be located in Jurong Innovation District, which already houses a vibrant ecosystem of researchers, technology partners and factories of the future. Singapore has also been developing our plans for autonomous and electric vehicle research and development. I am glad that Hyundai has invested in a joint venture, Motional, which conducts R&D and our autonomous vehicle trials here.
Singapore’s goal is to have all our vehicles run on cleaner energy by 2040, in line with our Paris Agreement commitments, so that our air is cleaner, and Singaporeans can have a better quality of life. Earlier this year, we announced plans to catalyse EV demand, and to build EV infrastructure like charging points ahead of demand. Now we are taking another step to anchor the value chain here with HMGICS, as the first EV manufacturing facility in Singapore.
Singapore is actually no stranger to car production. Ford and Mercedes Benz assembled cars here from the 1940s to 1980. In fact, the Ford Factory in Bukit Timah started operations in 1941, before the war, when Singapore was still a British colony. But production technologies changed and car assembly on a small scale became no longer economically viable. We shifted strategies, gave up car assembly, and pivoted to other manufacturing activities where we could be internationally competitive. These underpinned our industrialisation and development, and have provided many good opportunities for Singapore and Singaporeans.
40 years on, the automotive market has evolved. We are seeing growing interest in cleaner, smarter vehicles. Cities around the world are also facing pressure to move people around more efficiently, and in an environmentally sustainable manner. Automotive activities are becoming viable in Singapore once again. EVs have a different supply chain, fewer mechanical parts and more electronics, which plays to Singapore’s strengths. That is why global companies producing automotive electronics like Delphi and Infineon are already in Singapore and have been here for some time. We hope this will open up new growth areas for our economy, and create exciting jobs for Singaporeans, for example Industrial Internet of Things (IoT) engineers, data scientists, cobot technicians and digital supply chain strategists. These job titles did not even exist a few years ago, but these jobs are now on the cutting edge, and demand new skills. Young Singaporeans may not have these skills in the first instance, but they will learn from the engineers that you bring here from Korea and elsewhere in the world, as we did in the past. And over time, I am confident that we will build up a Singaporean workforce with these skills.
HMGICS is also an important milestone in the economic relationship between Singapore and South Korea. It will pave the way for more Korean companies to invest here, partner with local suppliers and SMEs, and collaborate with our universities and research institutes. EDB, JTC, ESG and A*STAR will all work closely with you to support these partnerships. I understand that Hyundai Motor is already in discussions with NTU and A*STAR, for example to use of AI in autonomous driving. In fact, you will be neighbours with the NTU Smart Campus, which aims to be a living testbed of tech-enabled solutions like electric vehicles. I hope that this will make it easier for your discussions to bear fruit, and for Singapore technology to power Hyundai cars all over the world.
I am confident that your team’s vision and ambition will make this project a success. It will be a vivid demonstration that in Singapore, we have what it takes to dream big and reinvent ourselves. We did not think that Singapore would one day be manufacturing cars again. But Singapore is where we have made the impossible, possible. I read that you are even planning to develop an electric Vertical Take-Off and Landing (eVTOL) vehicle by 2028. Perhaps one day we will manufacture them at HMGICS and see them fly in the skies of Singapore. Never say never!
Once again, we welcome Hyundai to Singapore, and wish the team every success. Thank you very much.
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