SEOUL -- Hyundai Motor reported a 24 percent jump in net profit for the latest quarter, as improved business at home and the United States helped offset weaker sales in China.
Hyundai's first profit increase in six quarters was helped by strong demand for new utilities such as the Palisade and decreasing incentive spending in the U.S.
In the quarter ended March, Hyundai posted a 24 percent rise in net profit to 829 billion won ($722 million), vs. an eight-year low a year earlier. Operating profit climbed to 824.9 billion won ($718 million).
In the United States, where Hyundai is slowly catching up with the shift to utilities, the automaker's sales rose 2 percent.
Hyundai last week hired former Nissan executive Jose Munoz to oversee its Americas operation, replacing William Lee, who has held the position for less than a year.
The appointment comes at a time when Hyundai and affiliate Kia Motors are facing regulatory investigations in the United States into the timeliness of recalls involving defective engines and thousands of fires connected to their vehicles.
A threat of import tariffs has further blurred the outlook for their U.S. sales.
U.S. President Donald Trump, who has threatened to levy tariffs of some 25 percent on imported vehicles and auto parts on national security grounds, has until about May 17 to act on any tariff recommendations made by the Commerce Department.
South Korean government officials said the country could be exempt from the tariffs as Seoul has made concessions in autos under a revised trade deal with Washington.
But Hyundai CEO Ha Eon-tae cautioned union leaders earlier this month that tariffs, if imposed, could wipe off two of the automaker's South Korean factories, according to a union newsletter on its website.
Hyundai has one factory in the United States and around half of its vehicles sold in the U.S comes mainly from South Korea and Mexico.
In China, Hyundai recently flagged plans to suspend production at its oldest plant as it grapples with massive overcapacity in its biggest market.
First-quarter sales in China slumped 19 percent to its lowest since the global economic downturn in 2009, dragged by the lack of attractive models and strong branding amid growing competition from local and global rivals.
An overall slowdown in auto sales in China in the first quarter after contracting in 2018 for the first time in almost three decades weighed further on Hyundai's sales in the country, home to the world's biggest car market.
In contrast, Hyundai's sales in South Korea rose 9 percent to its highest since 2002 in the first quarter.
Bloomberg contributed to this report.