TOKYO - Hyundai Motor Co. may build a car assembly plant in Europe.
A task force to be formed early next year will study whether to build a factory and where to locate it. The South Korean carmaker expects to announce its plans in early 2003.
Both Hyundai and Kia models would be produced at the new plant, said Hyundai Motor President Dong Jin Kim.
Combined sales of the two brands in western Europe were about 320,000 last year. But Kim said Hyundai is counting on new models to accelerate growth - especially in the supermini segment.
Hyundai plans to launch a new supermini next year, filling a huge gap in its product lineup.
Kim did not say which models would be produced at a European assembly plant.
'We will set up a task force early next year to consider a plant in Europe,' said Kim. 'I don't know which country it will be in. The process will take a year. We will probably have an announcement in early 2003.'
Hyundai won't use DaimlerChrysler's production facilities in Graz, Austria, he said. D/C owns 10 percent of Hyundai Motor.
'We have a different philosophy for assembly than Mercedes,' Kim said. 'Ours is based more on volume.'
Meanwhile, Hyundai plans to build an assembly plant in the USA and will announce the location early next year.
Kim said Hyundai has increased car shipments to Europe since September as the euro has gained in value.
'This year we have intentionally restrained our shipments to Europe,' he said. 'But when the euro gets over 90 [to the US dollar] Europe is profitable for us.'
Hyundai's sales in western Europe declined 6.4 percent to 172,000 through September and its market share has decreased from 1.6 percent to 1.5 percent.
Korean importers have come under political pressure in Europe as their market share grew during the past decade.