Hyundai Motor’s profit falls despite strong sales

SOUTH KOREA- Hyundai Motor's global operating profit slid by 1.5 per cent in 2013 to 8.31 trillion won ($7.75 billion) as the carmaker struggled against a strong domestic currency, the company said on Thursday.

Hyundai performed better abroad, with total sales rising by 3.4 per cent from 2012 to 87.307 trillion won. But its global sales were eclipsed by sluggish domestic sales that were triggered by an influx of imported cars.

Its repeated strikes also did not help with domestic sales, industry observers said.

According to Hyundai's regulatory filing, it sold a total of 4,732,366 cars overseas last year to record 71.5 trillion won in car sales. Kia's figures will be disclosed on Friday.

In Korea, the world's sixth-largest carmaker sold 640,698 cars, reflecting a 4 per cent decline from 2012.

Profit was less than 10 per cent, its lowest rate since 2010.

Analysts, however, claimed that Hyundai's records weren't too bad.

"What is impressive about Hyundai is that the carmaker has managed to maintain operating profit to well above 9 per cent, while market competitors barely make it around 5 per cent, except for Toyota," a business analyst said.

The prospect for Hyundai is therefore bullish, he said, pointing out that the company is planning to boost production shortly by establishing a new American production plant and combining state-of-the-art information technology with its autos.

Hyundai has recently signed a contract with the US' No. 1 telecommunications service provider Verizon to offer Wi-Fi in its US cars and trucks, starting with the Genesis sedan in May. It will also soon be applied to Kia cars, the company said.

"We found the US to be the ideal market because its IT infrastructure, including Verizon's technology, was optimal for Blue Link performance," said Park Min-hyung, a Hyundai Motor spokesman.

Unveiled at the consumer electronics show in Las Vegas earlier this month, the technology allows drivers to open or lock the doors, turn on the engine as well as navigate the roads. The Blue Link service will be integrated with Google tools including Google Maps and Google Glass. Initially, cars will use 3G wireless service and eventually will feature faster 4G and Long Term Evolution technology.

Hyundai and Kia are expected to sell a combined 1.2 million cars in the US this year.