Tue, Jan 04, 2005 - Page 10 News List

Strong exports boost Korean auto firms

AFP , SEOUL

South Korean car firms enjoyed strong exports last year to offset a major setback in domestic sales linked to high oil prices, data showed yesterday.

Top auto manufacturer Hyundai Motor and four other companies sold a total of 4.51 million vehicles last year, up 2.1 percent from 2003, while exports jumped 41.7 percent to 3.43 million units.

Domestic sales tumbled 17 percent to 1.08 million units due to slumping consumption as the country grapples with the fallout from the end of a credit boom.

Hyundai Motor Group, including its affiliate Kia Motors and overseas units, sold 3.18 million units last year, up 24.7 percent from 2.55 million in 2003.

Domestic sales fell 14.9 percent to 806,000 vehicles, while overseas sales climbed 28.8 percent to 2.37 million.

Analysts forecast slower car exports this year as the won's rise against the dollar will undermine the price competitiveness of South Korean products abroad.

Hyundai chairman Chung Mong-koo unveiled an aggressive strategy saying the group aims to sell 3.73 million vehicles this year, up 17.3 percent from last year.

Hyundai, which controls 70 percent of the local market, earmarked 6.76 trillion won (US$6.52 billion) for its investment this year, up 23.8 percent, to expand production and boost research and development.

GM Daewoo Auto Technology, the local unit of the US' General Motors, sold 900,084 vehicles last year, up 55.2 percent, with exports rising 76 percent to 795,627.

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