SEOUL -- Renault Samsung Motors Inc., the South Korean unit of French carmaker Renault SA, said on Tuesday it was targeting 2005 sales of 105,000 vehicles, up 23.3 percent from 2004, driven by booming sales of new models.
Hit by stagnant domestic demand, sales at Renault Samsung, South Korea's smallest automaker, tumbled 23.6 percent to 85,098 units worth 1.35 trillion won ($1.35 billion) in 2004.
But the launch of Renault Samsung's first large sedan, the SM7, and smaller remodeled SM5 sedan, has revived consumer appetite and boosted its sales since last December.
"2005 will definitely be a better year than 2004 because the Korean economy is recovering," Jerome Stoll, Renault Samsung chief executive, told reporters. "The Korean auto market highly depends on the launch of new products. This will clearly be a plus for the market."
The Korean unit of Renault said it posted a net profit of 7.8 billion won ($7.73 million) in 2004, its third consecutive profitable year. But the figure was down sharply from its 2003 profit of 83.6 billion won.
"It's not a big number, but quite positive taking into account a significant drop in overall volumes. We may expect some improvement this year," Stoll said.
Behind his optimism, the firm's SM7 has taken pole position in South Korea's large, luxury model market in the three months since its launch, grabbing an average 36 percent share.
"The market response for the SM series in the first few months of 2005 is giving us a good start towards meeting this year's sales target," the company said in a statement.
"2005 will be the year Renault Samsung Motors prepares for a full-fledged export business. We will diversify its export channels by taking advantage of the Renault-Nissan Alliance network."
Renault Samsung said it would sell 101,500 vehicles at home and export 3,500 units this year.
It also said it would unveil a sport-utility vehicle, its fourth model currently under development, in 2007 as planned. The SUV model will be sold not only at home but abroad under the Renault brand.
The French automaker took a 70 percent stake in the former automotive unit of Samsung Group in 2000.