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Hyundai and Kia plan to sell big numbers of cars in China

HYUNDAI Motor Co and affiliate Kia Motors Corp, South Korea's biggest car makers, target record sales in China this year to help them weather the meltdown of auto markets in the United States and Europe.

Hyundai's 50-50 joint venture in China aims to raise factory sales by 22 percent to 360,000 vehicles, while Kia's China plant expects to sell 185,000 cars, up 30 percent from 2008, the Seoul-based companies said in an e-mailed statement. They aim at a combined 10 percent share of China's market for passenger cars.

Auto sales in China rose 7.3 percent to 6.76 million last year, growing at the slowest pace in at least nine years as a cooling economy damped demand for new vehicles, according to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers. Hyundai and Kia outperformed the industry average by adding new, smaller models, Bloomberg News said.

''Hyundai and Kia are doing relatively well in China and January sales numbers were promising,'' said Kang Sang-min, a Seoul-based analyst at Tong Yang Securities Inc. ''Their strength in emerging markets will help them beat competitors more reliant on mature markets,''added Kang.

Hyundai's January retail sales in China jumped 35 percent from a year earlier to 42,790 units while Kia gained 15 percent to 17,607, helped by demand ahead of the Lunar New Year holiday and a reduction in sales tax on small cars, the statement said.

For all of 2008, Hyundai's China sales grew 27 percent while those at Kia jumped 40 percent.

''Although we're facing a tough market environment, we'll try to meet our goals with aggressive steps including adding new models tailored to local customers,'' the statement said.

Hyundai and Kia, like General Motors Corp and Volkswagen AG, are counting on emerging-market sales to offset slumping demand in the US and European markets.


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