Hyundai i30 was styled by ex-Audi design guru Peter Schreyer at Russelsheim in Germany and will be built in the Czech Republic.

The head of Hyundai’s French subsidiary has expressed astonishment at a French minister's suggestion that consumers shy away from buying a South Korean car.

Hyundai executive Patrick Gourvennec told Europe 1 radio that comments by French industrial renewal minister Arnaud Montebourg had left Hyundai “speechless”.

Hyundai and its sister company Kia have increased sales in Europe while manufacturers such as French group PSA Peugeot-Citroen have run into trouble.

Peugeot intends to shed 8000 jobs, presenting the French government with a high-profile challenge as it tries to boost economic activity.

On Tuesday Montebourg told another radio programme, “Face a la Presse,” that he would not visit South Korean automakers' stands at the Paris Motor Show, which opens to the media on Thursday.

“I will pass them by.”

Montebourg, who has previously taken the Korean carmakers to task, said: “Commercial dumping looks like social dumping.”

Dumping typically refers to the practice of selling goods for less than they cost to garner market share.

In early August, Montebourg said that France would ask the European Commission to begin monitoring car imports from South Korea in the first step towards a possible re-introduction of tariffs.

On Wednesday he said: “I am telling the French that in buying Hyundais and Kias they are contributing in a way to the labour crisis.”

He urged consumers to “look at what is behind a car's windows” when they shop around.

But Hyundai’s Gourvennec told Europe 1 that “the consumer is sufficiently well informed to avoid confusion between the problem of social dumping, which does not exist in this case,” and a manufacturer that has established a presence in Europe.

He said that only 10 percent of the cars his company sold in Europe were made in South Korea, with the rest built in Europe. - AFP