|SEOUL - South Korea's Hyundai Motor Co. said on Monday it may produce rear-wheel-drive luxury cars around 2007 to emulate the success of BMW's premium cars and Toyota's Lexus, and also churn out hybrid cars later in 2006.|
The moves by the country's top automaker, which controls half the home market, is seen as a step towards its goal of being among the world's top five car makers by 2010.
"We have not decided in what brand the luxury model will be, but rear-drive cars like BMW and Toyota's Lexus will be launched around 2007," a Hyundai spokesman said by telephone.
It currently produces only front-wheel-drive cars.
Hyundai and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp. will also bring forward by a year, to end-2006, plans to sell small-size hybrid cars to the United States, the spokesman said.
The first hybrid models will be subcompact cars of Hyundai's Accent and Kia's Rio, which share production platforms.
Hyundai would not churn out large-size hybrid vehicles for a while because of their low profitability, the spokesman added.
Like many South Korean exporters, Hyundai is having to cope with a stronger won currency and higher steel prices, as well as a sluggish local economy. Its first-quarter operating profits tumbled by almost one third.
REUTERS NEWS SERVICE