Kia Motors says its mid-size car plant in Zilina, Slovakia will be producing at full capacity of 300,000 vehicles within 18 months as the Korean company and Hyundai, its sister brand, consolidate a growingEuropean manufacturing hub.
Chung Eui-sun, Kia's president and chief executive, will be in Slovakia today for the official opening of the €1bn ($1.35bn) plant, which will eventually share seven manufacturing platforms with a Hyundai plant now under construction in the neighbouring Czech Republic.
The Zilina plant began producing three-door cars under Kia's Cee'd brandin December, and thisyear will begin building estate and five-door versions, as well asthe company's Sportage mid-size sport utility vehicle.
Kia sold 275,000 cars in Europe in 2006 and hopesto reach sales of 309,000this year, Jean-Charles Lievens, its senior vice-president responsible for Europe, told the Financial Times.
"We want to focus more on European products, and Zilina will be the core of our strategy," he said.
Mr Lievens said the company - which is also opening plants in China and the US this year - aimed to produce 500,000 cars per year in Europe by 2010.
Kia is targeting global production of 2.5m cars by 2010, up from 1.4m today.