Hyundai Motor plans to cut 1,500 jobs at its Beijing Hyundai vehicle manufacturing joint venture in response to weak local demand, according to local media reports citing Reuters.

The redundancies, which are expected to involve personnel lay-offs and transfers to other facilities within the company, are expected to be announced in the first quarter of this year.

Hyundai has struggled to recover from the sharp fall in sales in China in 2017 when South Korean companies were boycotted because of their country’s deployment of the THAAD US missile defence shield. After declining by 31% to 785,000 units in 2017, Hyundai’s sales in China were only slightly higher in 2018 at 790,000 units – with volume declining 23% year on year in the fourth quarter.

Overall vehicle sales in China fell 2.8% to just over 28m vehicles last year, its first fall since 1990, and little if any growth is forecast in the short term.

Hyundai has also come under pressure from stronger domestic competition with Chinese rivals such as Geely and Great Wall making significant gains, particularly in key growth segments such as SUVs.

Hyundai has five joint venture plants in China, three in Beijing, one in Chongqing and one in Cangzhou in Hebei province, with a combined annual production capacity of 1.65m vehicles.

Hyundai aims to lift sales in China to 900,000 units this year, helped by the launch of eight new models, and is targeting more than 1m sales in 2020.