WARSAW, Feb 5 - Korean conglomerate Daewoo Group plans to build as many as 500,000 vehicles a year in Poland by 1999, according to a senior company official.
'My vision is to build a minimum of 300,000 units and a maximum of 500,000 units a year (by 1999),' said Yoo Choon-Sik, president of Daewoo Motor Poland Corp. 'But nothing is finalized. The situation should be clear by June.'
Production would take place under Daewoo-controlled joint ventures at two formerly state-owned automakers - Fabryka Samochodow Osobowych (FSO) in Warsaw and Fabryka Samochodow w Lublinie (FSL) in Lublin.
Output will include cars, minibuses, trucks and vans, said Yoo.
Yoo told a Warsaw conference on the auto industry in central and eastern Europe that Poland was a leading market in the region.
'The Polish car market is one of the most dynamic in Europe . . . people here are car-hungry,' he said.
Daewoo plans to keep producing FSO's popular Polonez car until 1999, while output of Polonez commercial vehicles could continue another couple of years, Yoo said.
Meanwhile, Daewoo expects to launch production at FSO of two or three new models, developed by the Korean company with Polish engineers.
FSO would start assembling Daewoo's T100 mid-sized car in late 1997, J100 mid-sized car in late 1998 and possibly another model in late 1999, Yoo said. Assembly would evolve into manufacturing 18 months to 24 months from the introduction of each model, he added.
In late 1995, Daewoo started trial assembly of its Nexia cars at FSL, now named Daewoo Motor Polska Ltd. (DMP). Cars built there will be sold in Poland from March, he said.
DMP expects to begin assembling a new minibus and van in October, while maintaining production of FSL's Lublin and Zuk commercial vehicles. DMP can build as many as 40,000 commercial vehicles a year, but Daewoo is studying the feasibility of increasing the annual capacity to 100,000 units, Yoo said.
Depending on its overall production capacity in Poland, Daewoo could export one-third of its output. 'Our export strategy will focus on markets in central and eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union as well as countries in Asia and the Middle East,' he said.
Yoo told the conference that Poland was likely to become Daewoo's base for parts production for its worldwide operation.
Daewoo's Lublin plant expects to start manufacturing diesel motors by 1999 with annual capacity of 100,000 units. FSO would build as many as 200,000 petrol engines a year, starting in 1998.
These engines would be exported to Daewoo's vehicle plants in the Czech Republic, India, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
The Korean company, which includes 24 business units, has invested in FSL and FSO through Daewoo Corp and Daewoo Heavy Industries Ltd.
Business plans include investments of roughly $1.1 billion at FSO and $340 million at FSL.