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Strong won erodes profit of Hyundai Motor in Q1

Hyundai Motor posted an 18.5 percent decline in operating profits at 1.5 trillion won ($1.3 billion) in the first quarter of 2015 on-year, the nation’s top automaker said on Thursday.

“The strong won against other currencies continued to erode profits in the first quarter of this year,’’ the automaker said in a press release.

The firm’s revenue also fell 3.3 percent to 20.9 trillion won in the same period.

Sales of cars fell both at home and abroad. The world’s fifth largest automaker in volume sold 1.028 million vehicles in overseas market for the first three months, a 3.6 percent drop from the same period last year.

The company’s first-quarter car sales fell 3.7 percent to 154,802 units on its home turf.

The company officials expect improvements in sales in the next quarter, driven by new car launches, including all-new Tucson, and the increase of plant operation rate.

Market watchers, however, forecast the nation’s top automaker will continue to face an uphill battle throughout the year due to unfavorable business conditions at home and abroad.

“The strong won will continue to hit the automaker’s price competitiveness in overseas market, while the invasion of foreign cars in the local market will weaken its dominant market status,’’ an industry insider said.

The combined domestic market share of Hyundai Motor, and its affiliate Kia Motors fell below 70 percent last year for the first time since 1998 when the two auto giants became sister companies. The trend will continue this year, pushed by growing popularity of foreign cars.