Kia Motors 2011 earnings up 30.4%; targets double-digit sales growth image

Kia Motors, the maker of the Optima sedan and Rio compact on Friday reported record-high earnings last year on the back of its upgraded brand image and robust sales growth in overseas markets.

Net profit reached 3.5 trillion won (US$3.1 billion) last year, up 30.4 percent from a year earlier, the company said in a regulatory filing.

Sales jumped 20.6 percent on-year to 43.2 trillion won in 2011, and operating profit also shot up 41.6 percent to 3.5 trillion won.

The company sold 2.48 million vehicles in 2011. It sold some 485,000 vehicles in the U.S. market, up 36.3 percent from a year earlier, while sales in China, now the world’s largest market for automobiles, jumped 29.9 percent to 433,000 cars. Sales in other regions rose 18.4 percent to 778,000.

The South Korea automaker, in which Hyundai Motor Co. owns a nearly 40% stake, expects overall sales for 2012 to grow 9.5% to 2.71 million units, slowing from a 19% rise to 2.48 million units last year.

Reuters reports that in Europe, Kia aims to boost sales by 23 percent to 356,000 vehicles – while in U.S. the maker of Optima plans to boost sales by 10 percent to 534,000 vehicles this year.