Hyundai predicts 4.1% sales rise in 2013

South Korea's top automaker, Hyundai Motor Group, forecast Wednesday a modest 4.1 percent increase in car sales this year to 7.4 million units, with a strong won harming competitiveness.

The projected growth is the lowest since 2007 when the company's global sales rose 3.9 percent, according to data compiled by AFP.

"Market environments at home and abroad in 2013 will be very difficult due to the impact of the years-long European debt crisis and global slowdown," group chairman Chung Mong-Koo said in his New Year message to employees.

Hyundai, together with its smaller affiliate Kia, is the world's fifth-largest automaker.

The group sold 7.12 million cars worldwide last year, up 8.0 percent from 2011. But the firm has seen growth slow with weakening demand in key US and European markets.

Hyundai, along with other major South Korean exporters, has also struggled with a surge in the local currency that has jacked up the price of its vehicles overseas in relation to Japanese rivals such as Honda or Toyota.

Chung vowed to increase investment in developing environmentally-friendly vehicles and electronic technologies in a bid to "secure future growth drivers".

He also stressed the group's global network, including 30 factories across nine countries, would help drive growth in an unfavourable market. The firm opened two new plants in China and Brazil last year.

"In order to achieve the sales goal of 7.41 million, we should respond to market changes more actively and forge closer cooperation in our globalised networks," Chung said.

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