SEOUL - Kia Motors Corp., South Korea's second-largest automaker, said on Thursday it raised its target for total exports this year by about 5 percent to 550,000 units thanks to a strong euro.
COO Kim Yong-Hwan told Reuters in an interview that the company saw exports to Europe rising 30 percent, as the firmer euro made Kia cars cheaper compared with European models.
Falling auto sales in western Europe compounded the woes of the region's carmakers, already hit by unfavorable exchange rates and struggling to lift profits this year as their Asian rivals gain ground.
The euro has gained 26 percent on the dollar over the last year, while the won has firmed by about 5 percent against the U.S. unit over the same period.
Kim said Kia planned to unveil two new models in Europe later this year to strengthen its footfold.
"We plan to begin European sales of our Amanti large sedan in the fourth quarter. We will unveil a new mini car at the Frankfurt Auto Show in September," Kim said.
The Amanti is Kia's first large sedan since it became an affiliate of the country's top auto maker Hyundai Motor Co. after the Asian financial crisis began in 1997.
In a move to catch up in quality with rivals such as Japan's Toyota Motor Corp., Hyundai and Kia are boosting research and development spending this year.
"We cannot counter major automakers by offering price incentives alone," said Kim, adding Kia planned to unveil 15 new models over the next five years.
Kia said earlier this month it planned to invest 1.25 trillion won ($1.05 billion) this year, up 56 percent from last year, with more than 800 billion won going into research and development.
Kia launched the Sorento mid-sized SUVs in the key U.S. market last year and unveiled the Amanti large sedan in South Korea earlier this year, where it is sold under the name Opirus.
Based on Hyundai's XG350 sedan, the Amanti is more rounded in shape and displays larger dimensions.
U.S. sales of the Amanti are set to begin in the first quarter of next year, Kim said.
"The Sorento improved our brand image abroad and the Amanti will take this further," he said.
Earlier this month, Kia saw first quarter profit rise more than 40 percent boosted by brisk sales of pricey SUVs.