HONG KONG (AP) -- Hyundai Motor Co. plans to focus on developing countries and the small-car market next year as the global downturn weakens demand, a top executive said Tuesday.
The South Korean carmaker will concentrate on developing regions such as China, India, the Middle East, Africa and South America as demand slumps in North America and Europe, said Mong Hyun Yoon, director for business strategy.
The small-car market also offers better growth potential, he said, as a dreary economy leads consumers to buy cheaper, more fuel efficient vehicles.
"We are afraid 2009 will be very tough year for automakers," Yoon said at a media briefing in Hong Kong.
The company, which along with affiliate Kia Motors Corp. forms the world's fifth-largest automotive group, said last month that third-quarter net profit fell 37.8 percent as labor unrest sapped production and warranty provisions increased. Sales also declined.
It lowered its annual sales target to 3.02 million vehicles from the previous 3.11 million, citing weakness in the global auto industry. On Tuesday, Yoon declined to specify a target for 2009.
Next year, the company plans to roll out a hybrid Elantra small car for the South Korean market, and bring a gas-electric hybrid version of its Sonata sedan to the U.S. in 2010.