GENEVA -- South Korean carmaker Hyundai Motor will expand its plant in Turkey at the end of this year to help meet booming demand for its passenger cars in Europe, a senior company official told Reuters on Tuesday.
"We will increase our capacity in Turkey so we will not only produce the H1 (light commercial vehicle), we will also produce passenger cars there," said Werner Frey, vice president of Hyundai Motor Europe GmbH.
"It will be about 20,000 or 30,000 (cars to be made there)," he added.
The move reflects quick-growing Hyundai's ambitions to become one of the top five global carmakers within five years.
Hyundai, which controls half of the South Korean market, recently unveiled a plan to grow production in India, where it makes the Atos compact car.
It also plans to ramp up production at a U.S. plant in Alabama and will open a plant in Slovakia to make Hyundais and Kias.
Hyundai boosted European unit sales by around 22 percent last year to 340,000 vehicles and aims to increase that to 430,000 in 2005 year by tapping demand for affordable cars with a reputation for quality.
"We want to do our contribution to becoming a global top five player by 2010," he said.
"By 2010 the (global) target is to sell 5.5 million to 6.0 million cars -- Hyundais and Kias --- and our target (in Europe) is to double the volume we did last year, so 700,000 in 2010. This would be a market share of 4 percent. Last year it was 2.1 percent."
Frey held out prospects that Hyundai could soon overtake Nissan to be the second-biggest Asian carmaker in Europe.
"Hopefully we can pass them, maybe this year or next year, so that we are number two in Europe behind Toyota. We are now a strong number three so we are close to passing Nissan."
Nissan is growing strongly in the U.S. market but its growth has faltered a bit in Europe.
Brian Carolin, senior vice president for sales and marketing at Nissan Europe, told Reuters the company was forecasting only modest growth in Europe this year from the 544,000 units it sold last year from Iceland to Israel.
"This year we will sell a little more. Our objective is only modestly above that," he said, noting the six new models it is rolling out this year would either replace older models or were targeting niche markets with relatively low volumes.
Volumes were set to pick up again in 2006 and 2007 as new models hit the market, he said.
In western Europe alone, ACEA industry group figures show Nissan narrowly ahead of Hyundai in 2004, with 366,000 vehicles sold versus 298,000.
Like Toyota, Hyundai is pushing diesel engines to close the gap on rivals in Europe, where diesels now make up nearly half of the overall market, Frey said.
Frey said diesel-powered vehicles now made up around 35 percent of Hyundai sales in Europe.