The HyundaiKia Automotive Group is preparing to restructure its overseas sales network.

It will expand its US dealer network, open regional headquarters in Russia and streamline struggling Japanese units, officials told The Korea Times.

Hyundai Motor debuted in Japan in 2002 but has failed to have much impact, selling only 501 vehicles in Japan last year.

Hyundai has integrated its Japan headquarters for five affiliates ? Hyundai Mobis, Hyundai Hysco, Hyundai Autonet, Hyundai Steel and BNG Steel. A Hyundai spokesman said the measure was “to enhance their connectivity and reduce operation costs”.

In Europe, KIA Motors, Hyundai’s sister carmaker, plans to set up its regional headquarters in Russia later this month, which will be the second largest of its overseas regional headquarters, following that in the United States. The automaker opened its Italy headquarters late last year in marketing efforts targeting western Europe.

Kia sold 88,300 vehicles in 2008 in the rapidly-growing Russian market and aims to increase sales by 13% to 101,200 this year. Kia will also launch a US branch office in Washington this year, coinciding with the completion of its new plant in Georgia.

Hyundai plans to step up its efforts to increase sales in the United States. The company is the only automaker there that saw its sales increase in the fourth quarter of last year amid the difficult market situation.

Hyundai increased its dealers from 787 to 798 last year, marking a contrast to the general reduction in dealerships of rival US carmakers.

Hyundai got off to a flying start in January by selling 24,512 vehicles, a 14% increase year on year, mainly due to an aggressive new “buyback” promotion and the selection of its Genesis luxury sedan as this year’s North American Car of the Year, the Korea Times said.