Hyundai affiliate Kia has announced that 2003 sales rose 5.6% compared to 2002 to an all-time high of 12.84 trillion won ($US11.1 billion), its third consecutive year of record sales.

Kia's operating, ordinary and net profits rose 23.4%, 6.5% and 10%, respectively, to 812.4 billion won, 853.6 billion won and 705.4 billion won in 2003.

South Korea's second-largest car maker said it will increase its annual sales 23.1% to 15.8 trillion won in 2004. Kia has targeted a 40.6% surge in profits to 1.2 trillion Won in 2004, as well as a 27.4% rise in annual vehicle sales to 1.09 million vehicles.

Exports rose by 19.8% to 538,902 vehicles in 2003, with the average price of each exported vehicle - boosted by surging Sorento SUV sales - rose from $9,900 to $11,200. Kia exports to Europe soared 58.8% last year thanks to the strong euro and new models.

Announcing the carmaker's 2003 performance and 2004 business plans, Kia CEO and president Yoon Kook-jin said the company would soon pick the site for its first European plant from two finalists - Poland and Slovakia - and will also consider building a second car assembly plant in China in the longer term.