Hyundai Motor’s 4Q Profit Up 13 Percent

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -

Hyundai Motor Co. said its fourth-quarter profit increased 13 percent over a year earlier, thanks to higher overseas sales.

But its earnings for the whole of 2013 fell, underlining Hyundai’s waning popularity among Korean consumers and labor strife.

South Korea’s largest automaker said Thursday its fourth-quarter profit reached 2.1 trillion won ($2 billion), compared with 1.9 trillion won a year earlier.

Hyundai’s 2013 profit dropped 1 percent, to 9 trillion won. Hyundai blamed lower demand from domestic consumers and production disruptions caused by strikes. Automakers from Europe and the U.S. expanded their sales in South Korea by introducing cheaper models and benefiting from free-trade deals that phased out tariffs.

Hyundai, the maker of the Genesis sedan, also blamed currency rates for its lower annual profit. The South Korean won posted gains against the U.S. dollar while Japanese automakers enjoyed the benefits of a cheaper yen as a result of the Bank of Japan’s aggressive monetary easing.

Sales for the fourth quarter dipped 3 percent, to 21.9 trillion won. For the whole of 2013, sales increased 3 percent, to 87.3 trillion won.

Forecasting intense competition from foreign brands trying to erode its market share in South Korea, Hyundai said its growth in 2014 would come from overseas markets. It aims to sell 4.9 million vehicles this year, up from 4.7 million last year.

The annual goal represents 4 percent growth from 2013, slowing from the previous year. In 2013, Hyundai’s auto sales rose 7 percent. Hyundai said the modest goal reflects a slow growth forecast in both emerging and developed nations.

The company unveiled a new Genesis sedan, to expand in the premium car segment and to make its brand known among premium car customers. It is expected to announce an upgrade of its mainstay Sonata model later this year.