Robotic machines weld bodies of Kia cars in its factory in Zilina, 200 kilometres north of Bratislava October 3, 2012. Carmakers that cut costs last decade in Western Europe like Volkswagen, or those who were never saddled with expensive factories there, such as Korea's Hyundai and Kia, are now investing in new designs, conquering new markets and ramping up production. Between them, VW Group, Mercedes, Kia and Hyundai have raised their share of the European market to 35.5 percent in the eight months to end August 2012, from 30 percent in the same period of 2010. Up the road in the foothills of Slovakia's Fatra mountains, the most modern factory owned by Korean carmaker Kia Motors looks set to beat its production goal of 285,000 SUVs, compact and family cars. Picture taken October 3, 2012. To match Insight AUTOS-CENTRALEUROPE/ REUTERS/Petr Josek (SLOVAKIA - Tags: TRANSPORT BUSINESS EMPLOYMENT)

While the rest of the world is grappling with shrinking markets and toxic economies, South Korea's Hyundai/Kia group is unhappy because they've had to lower their expectations for growth in 2013 to a 'modest' 4.1 percent - which would take the world's fifth-biggest automaker up to 7.4 million vehicles.

The projected growth is the lowest since 2007 - the year of the global financial meltdown - when the company's global sales still went up 3.9 percent.

The group sold 7.12 million cars worldwide in 2012, up eight percent from 2011, but sales momentum slowed in the latter part of the year, due to weakening demand in the critical US and European markets, as well as a strong domestic currency that made Korean exports more expensive overseas in relation to Japanese rivals such as Honda or Toyota.


Nevertheless group chairman Chung Mong-Koo has a plan; in his New Year message to employees he said the company would increase its investment in environmentally-friendly vehicles and electronic technologies, so as to appeal to the wired generation, as they became old enough to drive.

The group would also rely increasingly on its global network of 30 factories in nine countries, including two new ones in China and Brazil opened last year, to help grow sales in an unfavourable economic climate.