Renault said today that its South Korean unit would break even in 2002, two years ahead of schedule, and pledged to spend almost $300 million over three years on new models, Reuters reported.

According to Reuters, Renault said that Renault Samsung Motors led the group in terms of sales outside of Europe and justified hefty investments for future growth.

Renault took over the former unit of the Samsung Group two years ago and holds a controlling 70.1% stake, Reuters said.

According to Reuters, soaring sales of Renault Samsung’s SM5 mid-sized sedan led it to boost its 2002 sales target recently to 92,000 cars from an earlier 88,000 while the company sold 70,000 cars in 2001 and recently launched a second Nissan-based model.

“We expected an operating profit in 2004,” Renault Samsung chief executive Jerome Stoll told Reuters. “We shall achieve it this year.”

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According to Reuters, South Korea’s regulatory Financial Supervisory Service has said Renault Samsung posted a net loss of 59.5 billion won ($US49.23 million) in 2001.

“We have an investment plan for 120 billion won ($99.29 million) each year for the next three years to help lay the foundations for Renault Samsung Motors growth,” Renault chairman and chief executive Louis Schweitzer told Reuters.

Schweitzer also told Reuters that Renault had a third model in the pipeline at Renault Samsung, while a fourth was under consideration, but he declined to elaborate on the third model and when it would be launched.

Schweitzer reiterated Renault Samsung’s development plan, announced last year, to be able to produce 500,000 vehicles by 2010, half for the domestic market and half for export, Reuters said.

According to Reuters, Schweitzer said that Renault Samsung would share 10 vehicle platforms with Nissan and Renault by 2010, although it would not sell cars under the Renault brand in South Korea until then.