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SEOUL, Mar 06, 2009 Hyundai Motor Co. (KSE:005380)

Chairman Chung Mong-koo said Friday he will embrace the worst crisis the global automobile industry has seen in decades as an opportunity to boost sales and raise the company's profile worldwide.
"The global auto industry is now in the midst of a fierce battle for survival," Chung told an annual shareholder meeting of Kia Motors Corp., an affiliate of Hyundai.

"We will overcome the global auto crisis by putting our priority on increasing sales," the 71-year-old chairman said. "The crisis, in other words, is an opportunity for innovation."

Undeterred by the deepening global economic slump, Chung said Hyundai and Kia, which together form the world's fifth-largest automaker, will "aggressively develop new growth engines" by spending more on research and improving quality.

Analysts say Hyundai is better positioned to weather the global economic crisis because of its line-up of cheaper cars and the South Korean currency's weakness against the U.S. dollar.

Last month, Hyundai saw its total sales fall 3.2 per cent to 203,236 vehicles. But the carmaker has been relatively content as it is faring considerably better than its Japanese and American counterparts in the U.S. market, where vehicle sales plunged to their lowest level in 27 years as the economic recession deepened.

Hyundai posted a 1.5 per cent drop in U.S. auto sales last month, compared with a 39.8 per cent plunge at Toyota Motor Corp. of Japan and a 38-percent drop at Honda Motor Co.

Hyundai is taking a bigger slice of the slumping U.S. market, helped by its generous incentive program that allows American customers experiencing financial difficulties to return their vehicles free of charge.

Under the program, those who purchased a Hyundai vehicle but can not make their payments due to layoffs, personal bankruptcy or accidental health issues can return the vehicle within a year of purchase.

Meanwhile, Chung officially resigned as director of Kia's board on the same day.
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