Gianforte Hyundai Bozeman
From left to right: Stephanie Gray, Dean of Gallatin College; Abraham Kim, Executive Director of the Council of Korean Americans; Todd O’Hair, President and CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce; John Robb, CEO of Hyundai America Technical Center, Inc.; Gov. Greg Gianforte; John Suh, Founding Director of New Horizons Studio, Hyundai Motor Group; Scott Osterman, Director of the Department of Commerce; Jason Carter, VP of Economic Development Montana State University; Mark Sharpe, Director of Innovation Campus, MSU; Dick Harte, Board Chair of Innovation Campus, MSU. Credit: Courtesy of governor's office.

BOZEMAN — Hyundai Motor Group is investing $20 million over the next five years to operate its latest research and development facility on the campus of Montana State University, company and state officials announced Thursday. 

“We are thrilled that Hyundai has recognized Montana’s business-friendly environment, unmatched quality of life and hard-working, talented workforce,” Gov. Greg Gianforte said at a press conference announcing the project.

The Research, Development and Lab Center is part of Hyundai’s New Horizons Studio aimed at developing what it calls Ultimate Mobility Vehicles, which will use a combination of robotics and wheeled locomotion technology, said Dr. John Suh, vice president of Hyundai Motor Group and head of the New Horizons Studio project.

The UMV project will create vehicles that can traverse more challenging landscapes than traditional cars or trucks. Company officials envision a vehicle with robotic legs that can be employed in natural disasters to assist first responders. 

People without access to a curb ramp could hail a car to walk up to their door, level itself and allow wheelchairs to roll in, Hyundai officials said. 

In addition to the new site in Bozeman, Hyundai operates New Horizons Studios facilities in Fremont, Calif., and Boston. 

“Bozeman is a thriving and economic micropolitan city,” Suh said. Located near dozens of off-road trails with more than 150 miles of terrain and mountain access for UMV testing, he said, “it’s the perfect fit for our new R&D lab.”

Dr. John Suh, head of New Horizons Studio and vice president of Hyundai Motor Group, announces a $20 million investment in a new research and development facility on the campus of Montana State University. Credit: Frank Eltman / MTFP

The estimated 12,000-15,000 square foot facility on MSU’s Innovation Campus will support prototyping, field testing, and application development for UMVs, and employ approximately 50 people, officials said.

“Hyundai’s investment in Montana is an example of what we can accomplish through targeted, focused, and coordinated business recruitment efforts,” said Todd O’Hair, president and CEO of the Montana Chamber of Commerce.  

Jason Carter, MSU vice president of research, economic development and graduate education, said the university envisions broad opportunities for research, including engineering, laser optics, computing and artificial intelligence. 

Suh said Hyundai will require a wide range of engineering talent, as well as people to work in manufacturing. 

The Industry Building that will be home to the project will break ground next month on the MSU campus, company officials said.

“This is a very exciting day for all of us,” Carter said. 

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Frank Eltman

Frank Eltman is a former Associated Press reporter and editor who retired in 2020 after a 31-year career. He was the AP’s Long Island correspondent from 2006 to 2018, where he was honored with induction into the Long Island Press Club Journalism Hall of Fame. He most recently was an editor at the AP’s West Regional Desk in Phoenix, where he worked on stories in 13 western states including Montana. He and his wife moved to Bozeman in 2021 to live closer to their daughter and future son-in-law.