£20m investment puts the Humber in top gear for car handling as Kia facility rolls into life

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 20 Jan 2016

A £20 million investment in car handling facilities at Stallingborough is now open for business.

South Korean motor giant Kia signed a long term agreement with automotive specialist Paragon, as reported in September, leading to a complete transformation and huge expansion of facilities close to the vital entry port of Immingham.

The deal will see more than 100 jobs created and scores secured as operations move from North Killingholme to the 88-acre site on Kiln Lane, where the first cars are now passing through.

MORE: Record UK car sales in 2016

It will handle all Kia cars imported less than two miles down the road and bound for the 188 dealerships in the UK, as well as used vehicles after they are returned to dealerships.

Mark Hindley, business development director at Paragon, said: "It is a 10-year contract, a long term partnership and we are extremely proud of that. It is still a work in progress, but we are now starting to process vehicles and in the next two to three weeks it will be completed.

"We have a 10-year opportunity, we have put in place the building blocks, and having a long term contract allows us to put in place the investment and long term employment to generate the efficiencies that our customer will need.

"By operating all these processes from one site we have a facility that is fit for purpose and scaleable."

A further 40 acres could be acquired, should growth accelerate, with potentially more jobs to follow, and apprenticeships.

A total of 23 people transferred from the existing employer, and former contract operator GBA, with the remaining number previously handling Kia vehicles now employed on other GBA sites. A total of 53 more people have already been employed by Paragon, with nearly 100 coming through agencies, to be converted to permanent employees once it is fully operational.

Latest technology including radio frequency identification, fitted to the cars at the port, is used to track vehicles on the site, alerting them to customer orders and allowing them to prioritise over unsold stock.

"It allows us to locate every car on an app, and it is the first time a technology of this kind has been used in this type of activity in the UK," Mr Hindley said.

"We see this as a centre of best practice for us as a company, and see it is a centre of excellence for Kia."

Kia's models include the Sportage, Picanto, C'eed and Rio, and are sold by Stoneacre Motor Group in Grimsby, a dealership Yaser Shabsogh, commercial director for Kia Motors UK, was familiar with.

He said: "This has been a work of quite a few months between us, and it is almost completed. It is a big investment for us, and it is something that is there to build for the next 10 years. We have had great success over the last 10 years, we have gone from selling 30,000 cars to over 80,000 cars and this building is to support us to get to 100,000, possibly 120,000 in time, possibly not that far ahead.

"We are really, really proud of it, and proud of the relationship.

"We had an agreement prior to Paragon in the area, and we like the area. It works well for us to bring cars into this area. The logistics work, the infrastructure around the port is very good, and there is a really helpful, positive attitude to make sure business is successful. We like working from the area. Both in the past relationship and the new relationship with Paragon, the quality of our people working on our products, local people's willingness to learn and step up and get involved is very good. We like it and we want to grow."

The site can support 15,000 cars at any one time, with organised zones to allow smooth flow and a large parts department that can welcome containerised loads directly.

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