South Korean automakers expect both domestic sales and exports to fall next year as the global downturn spreads.

Exports are likely to fall 5.6% to 2.55m vehicles in 2009, after dipping 5.2% in 2008, the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association said in a statement cited by Reuters. Domestic sales are expected to fall 8.7% to 1.05m, after a 5.7% decline this year.

Auto production in South Korea is predicted to srop 6.5% drop in 2009 while production at overseas plants is forecast to rise by 6.7% to 1.6m units, compared to 29% growth in 2008.

Hyundai Motor has just started production at a new plant in the Czech Republic. Earlier this month, it said its its US plant would close between 19 December and 4 January, after demand fell.

Hyundai's US sales last month were off 39.7% to 19,221 and down just over 10% to 378,000 year to date.