Korean-French carmaker Renault Samsung Motors will start an export drive from this year the Korea Times reported.

“We are going to set the momentum for exports this year, muscling into the Chinese, Northern African and Latin markets,’’ a company official told the newspaper.

RSM has shown poor export performance over the three years since the Renault group took over Samsung Motors in 2000, focusing on the local car market.

According to data from RSM, the portion of exports to total sales was 0.2% in 2001 and 0.3% last year. Of the 294 units exported last year, RSM sold 136 units to Chile and 108 units to Jordan, followed by China with 19 units and Vietnam with 4 units.

The Korea Times said the company’s domestic sales increased at a double-digit rate in that period. In 2002, the company sold 117,067 units, a 65.4% increase from the same period in 2001. It ranked as the fifth largest domestic carmaker with a 7.2% market share last year.

The company’s focus on the export drive is part of its plan to gradually raise exports to 25,000 units by 2010.

The reason for the quicker-than-planned export drive is the growing competition between five local and foreign car markers in the local market, industry watchers told the Korea Times.

Competition in the domestic car market is expected to become tougher this year as many challenges are expected in the business environment for exports, including rising oil prices, reduced demans and depreciation of the won against the dollar.

RSM plans to expand exports of its flagship brand SM5 to 2,000 units this year, a seven to eightfold increase from 294 units this year. Its target export markets are Chile, Jordan and the emerging Chinese market.

“We are going to attack the niche overseas car markets where the Renault-Nissan alliance has yet to enter, but we will get support from Renault’s overseas sales, distribution and customer service network to create a synergy effect,’’ a company official told the Korea Times.