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Kia to build small SUV at Slovakia plant by end 2007

South Korea's second-largest automaker, said it will add a small sport-utilityvehicle model by the end of next year at its first European plant in Slovakia.

Kia plans to double production capacity at the Slovakian plant to 300,000 units a year by adding the SUV, from the initial capacity of 150,000 units at the end of 2006, the Seoul- based carmaker said in an e-mailed statement today. Kia is trying to lift its market share in Europe with the opening of the Slovakia plant to meet its goal of becoming the world's fifth-largest automaker along with its parent Hyundai Motor Co. The carmaker wants to increase sales in Europe to 600,000 units by 2010 from 319,245 units last year. The plant in Slovakia, Kia's “first wholly-owned overseas manufacturing unit, will become the strategic stronghold for Kia,” Hyundai Motor Group Chairman Chung Mong Koo said in the statement. Chung is visiting the facility this week. The €1.1 billion($1.4 billion) factory in Zilina, Slovakia, will begin commercial production at the end of this month with the C'eed compact model. Kia aims to sell 100,000 units of C'eed next year and 150,000 units in 2008, the automaker said on September 29. Kia also operates a 50-50 joint venture Dongfeng Yueda-Kia Motors Co. in China. Shares of Kia fell 1.02% to 14,550 won as of 1:19 p.m. in Seoul. The stock has declined 45% this year. (Bloomberg)