Hyundai Motor Group aims to raise its US sales by 18.2% this year to 1.06m vehicles, up from its previous target of 1.01m.

The announcement was made during a visit to the United States by Chung Mong-koo, chairman of the world’s fifth-biggest automotive group which includes KIA Motors, Reuters reported.

Hyundai Motor is targeting sales of 624,000 vehicles in the United States this year and Kia Motors 433,000, a statement said. They sold a combined 894,496 cars in the United States last year.

Hyundai and Kia are among the fastest-growing automakers in the US market, with their combined share reaching 10.1% as of May this year from 7.7% last year and 3.3% in 2001.

They plan to launch the new Veloster utility coupe and Rio subcompact in the US to maintain their sales momentum.

South Korean media speculated Chung’s visit may be linked to Hyundai Motor’s possible construction of a second plant to meet booming demand in the world’s second-biggest market. The company, which currently runs a plant in Alabama producing the Sonata sedan and Elantra compact, has denied plans for a second US factory. Kia has a factory in Georgia.

Chung met the governors of Alabama and Georgia and visited Hyundai and Kia facilities in the US, Hyundai Motor said in a statement. Kia’s US plant makes the Sorento SUV and Hyundai’s Santa Fe SUV.

Chung called for employees in the United States to prioritise producing vehicles with “advanced” quality, according to the Korea Herald.

His remarks are in line with Hyundai Motor and its affiliate Kia Motors’ road map to catch up with European and Japanese carmakers from its earlier business strategy focused on product stabilisation.

“Beyond the products which simply satisfy consumers, it is time for us to touch their heart by providing them with best level-quality products,” he told employees in the US.

“Should we be satisfied with the present performances, I believe there will be no further development,” he said.

Chung also said he is certain that the group’s current capability far surpasses its performances over the past decade.

Observers in the automotive industry say that Chung’s latest remarks seemed to stem from emerging concerns over quality and safety issues after Toyota Motor’s recall.

“The voluntary recall of Hyundai’s Sonata sedan earlier this year to replace some front door latches could be understood in the same context,” a vehicle dealer said.

Chung has been emphasising quality-based management from the early days as chairman.

He also stressed to put more efforts in providing satisfactory after-sales services to customers.

Hyundai Motor Group vice chairman Chung Eui-sun, the only son of Chairman Chung, has also said Hyundai’s biggest challenge is to secure competitiveness in terms of quality in order to improve the brand image.

“As seen from earlier examples (at Toyota), quality issues should be prevented from occurring in the first place,” he has said.