The car industry has been battling a sales slump in Europe, where fallout from the euro zone crisis has hit consumer demand, with few signs of recovery expected this year.
Production at Kia’s assembly plant in Zilina, northern Slovakia, rose 15 percent last year to beat the company’s original plan to manufacture 285,000 cars. The plant’s annual production capacity is 300,000 vehicles.
Kia Slovakia makes versions of the Cee’d compact, Kia Sportage medium SUV and Kia Venga small minivan for Europe and Russia, which was the factory’s biggest export market last year with a 12 percent share overall.
The company plans to add a new version of the Cee’d in the first quarter. "We plan, also thanks to this [new Cee’d], to manufacture 290,000 cars in 2013," Eek-Hee Lee, head of Kia Slovakia, said Thursday.
Kia’s engine production rose 29 percent to 464,000 units, and the automaker plans to boost that to 490,000 this year.
Kia Slovakia, one of the country’s biggest exporters, said earlier this month it might start exporting to Africa.
The car sectors is currently the sole driver of the small export-reliant economy, expected by the central bank to grow 1.6 percent this year, down from an expected 2.4 percent for 2012.