SEOUL -- Hyundai Motor Co. posted a record quarterly turnover Friday, driven by strong sales of high-end cars, but its profit missed forecasts as accounting changes took their toll.
Once saddled with a reputation as a maker of cheap, unreliable cars, Hyundai is following Japanese rivals in making inroads into the key U.S. market after investing heavily to boost the quality, styling and performance of its automobiles.
Hyundai, which is 10 percent owned by DaimlerChrysler AG, earned $210.9 million in net profit in three months ended December against 251.4 billion a year ago. Sales rose to $6.09 billion compared with $4.6 billion.
Analysts had expected Hyundai to report $2.6 million in net profits on $5.5 billion in sales. Hyundai said it had changed certain accounting rules, bringing forward the reflection of its costs on research and development in its books.
In an effort to catch up in quality with the likes of Toyota Motor Corp., Hyundai and affiliate Kia Motors Corp. said this year that they would boost r&d spending by almost 50 percent this year to a combined $1.8 billion.
Hyundai said this year that it expected sales to rise more than 7 percent to a record $23.6 billion in 2003, betting on stronger exports of high-end automobiles like the Santa Fe SUV.
Racy new models, improved quality and extended warranties have helped South Korea become the fifth largest producer of automobiles, behind the United States, Japan, Germany and France.
But the automaker faces a tough 2003, with heavyweight General Motors leading a relentless price war in the key U.S. market and a strong Korean currency making Hyundai's products more expensive.
Hyundai said last month its plans for expansion in the U.S. market could include adding pickups, full-size SUVs and luxury cars to its lineup by 2007 or 2008, with a new small SUV on sale in 2004.