MLADA BOLESLAV, Czech Republic -- Skoda Auto, east Europe's largest car maker and a unit of Germany's Volkswagen AG, said on Wednesday that profits slumped in 2002 due to a strong crown and weak market conditions.
The auto maker, the country's single largest exporter, accounting for more than 10 percent of goods shipped abroad, has long warned that revenues were being hit by a strong crown currency, which makes imports cheaper and squeezes export margins.
Skoda said in a statement that slumping sales pushed its 2002 net profit down to 1.83 billion crowns ($62.27 million) from 2.1 billion crowns.
Unit sales dipped to 445,525 units last year, a drop of 3.2 percent, with total revenues down to 145.7 billion crowns from 153.27 billion the previous year.
"In the short-term outlook we cannot expect a quick recovery of sales markets. Our goal for 2003 is to reach a result on last year's level," the statement quoted Skoda Chairman Vratislav Kulhanek as saying.
Skoda's operating profit fell to 3.68 billion crowns from 5.88 billion crowns.
Skoda has long used its price competitiveness to muscle into markets abroad while keeping a stranglehold on the local market.
But the stronger currency has eroded its domestic dominance -- especially to French rivals Renault and PSA Peugeot Citroen. The Czech firm still retains about a 50 percent market share.