Hyundai Motor will expand its plant in Turkey at year end to help meet demand for its passenger cars in Europe, a senior company official told Reuters.

"We will increase our capacity in Turkey, so we will not only produce the H1 (light commercial vehicle), we will also produce passenger cars there," Werner Frey, vice president of Hyundai Motor Europe GmbH, told the news agency, adding: "It will be about 20,000 or 30,000 (cars to be made there)."

Reuters noted that the move reflects quick-growing Hyundai's ambitions to become one of the top five global carmakers within five years - the automaker recently unveiled a plan to boost production in India, where it makes the Atos compact car, also plans to boost production at its US plant in Alabama and will open a plant in Slovakia to make both Hyundai and Kia models.

Hyundai increased European unit sales by around 22% last year to 340,000 vehicles and aims to increase that to 430,000 in 2005 year by tapping demand for affordable cars with a reputation for quality, the report added.

"We want to do our contribution to becoming a global top five player by 2010," Frey told Reuters. "By 2010 the (global) target is to sell 5.5 to 6.0 million cars - Hyundais and Kias - and our target (in Europe) is to double the volume we did last year, so 700,000 in 2010. This would be a market share of 4%. Last year it was 2.1%."

Frey reportedly held out prospects that Hyundai could soon overtake Nissan to be the second-biggest Asian carmaker in Europe.

"Hopefully we can pass them, maybe this year or next year, so that we are number two in Europe behind Toyota. We are now a strong number three so we are close to passing Nissan," he told Reuters.

The news agency noted that Nissan is growing strongly in the United States, but its growth has faltered a bit in Europe.

Brian Carolin, senior vice president for sales and marketing at Nissan Europe, told Reuters the company was forecasting only modest growth in Europe this year from the 544,000 units it sold last year from Iceland to Israel.

"This year we will sell a little more. Our objective is only modestly above that," he reportedly said, noting the six new models it is rolling out this year would either replace older models or were targeting niche markets with relatively low volumes.

Volumes were set to pick up again in 2006 and 2007 as new models hit the market, he told the news agency.

Reuters said that, in western Europe alone, ACEA industry group figures show Nissan narrowly ahead of Hyundai in 2004, with 366,000 vehicles sold compared with 298,000.

Like Toyota, Hyundai is pushing diesel engines to close the gap on rivals in Europe, where diesels now make up nearly half of the overall market, Frey told the news agency.

He said diesel-powered vehicles now made up about 35% of Hyundai sales in Europe, Reuters added.