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Hyundai Considering Europe For New Auto Plant

Hyundai Considering Europe For New Auto Plant – Company Profile

Even as it is in the process of building a new plant in Montgomery, Alabama, Hyundai Motor Co. is turning its eyes to Europe for its next overseas push, driven by an ambition to become the fifth-largest carmaker in the world by 2010.

“Hyundai Motor has long-term investment plans to set up new overseas plants in each of the major regions to tailor its products to the unique requirements of each market,” said Senior Executive Vice President Harry Choi. By having a new plant in Europe and boosting its capacities in other overseas facilities, Hyundai Motor hopes to increase overall annual production capacity to 5 million units by 2010, from the current 1.9 million units.

South Korea’s largest carmaker will begin feasibility studies on the best site for its European plant “soon,” with a decision expected around 2005, Choi said.

He didn’t provide a specific timeframe when it will start building the plant – the company’s first in Europe – or how much it will spend. But company spokesman Park Sang-Woo said it usually takes two to three years to open a new plant from when the decision is first made.

The European market accounted for about 28 percent of Hyundai Motor’s exports in 2001, while its largest export market, the U.S., took up 47 percent. During the first eleven months of 2002, Hyundai Motor’s sales reached 1.6 million units with 984,069 units sold overseas. For 2003, Hyundai Motor expects its exports to reach more than 1 million units.

The company currently has 11 overseas production plants, mostly in Asia and Turkey, which together roll out 166,000 units a year.

“It is time for Hyundai Motor to look overseas, particularly with its production almost on par with total capacity,” said Samsung Securities senior analyst Kim Hag-Ju. “With a plant in Europe, Hyundai will be able to enjoy advantages such as lower shipping costs and easier access to customers who are relatively unfamiliar with Hyundai Motor,” he added.

Furthermore, Kim pointed out Hyundai Motor has been suffering low profitability in Europe due largely to foreign exchange losses – a problem that could be resolved with a regional manufacturing base.

The carmaker’s presence in Western Europe is still relatively small, with a 1.67 percent share of the passenger-car market. It expects sales in Western Europe to total 230,000 units in January-November 2002, marginally up from 228,000 units for all of 2001. “Sales in Europe have been steadily growing despite generally sluggish car demand in the region amid a hazy global economic outlook,” said Hyundai Motor’s Park.

“It is largely thanks to brisk demand for a new compact model, Getz.” Sales of Getz, which was released in Western Europe in the summer, totaled 36, 000 units in 2002 and are targeted to reach 800,000 units in 2003.

ING Barings analyst Suh Sung-moon said a relatively high tariff on car imports is one of the biggest obstacles to Hyundai Motor and other foreign car makers increasing their exports to the area. The EU imposes a 10 percent tariff on imported cars, while the U.S. imposes a 2.5 percent tariff, he said. Aside from its plans for Europe, Hyundai Motor will first work on increasing production in China, the world’s fastest growing automobile market.

Hyundai Motor recently opened a new plant in Beijing under a joint venture agreement with Beijing Automotive Industry Holding of China. The new Chinese plant’s annual capacity totals 30,000 units and Hyundai Motor plans to invest a total of $1.1 billion in the venture to expand output to 500, 000 units by 2010.

COPYRIGHT 2003 International Trade Services

COPYRIGHT 2003 Gale Group