BRATISLAVA, Jan 10 (Reuters) - South Korean carmaker Kia Motors said it planned to make 290,000 cars in Slovakia this year, just shy of the better-then-expected record 292,000 made in 2012.
The car industry has been battling a sales slump in Europe, where fallout from the euro zone crisis has hit consumer demand, with few signs of recovery expected this year.
Production at Kia's assembly plant in Zilina, northern Slovakia, rose 15 percent last year to beat the company's original plan to manufacture 285,000 cars. The plant's annual production capacity is 300,000 vehicles.
Kia Slovakia makes versions of the Cee'd small family car, Kia Sportage SUV, and Kia Venga mini car designed for markets in Europe and Russia, which was the biggest export market last year with a 12 percent share of overall exports.
The company plans to add a new version of the Cee'd in the first quarter. "We plan, also thanks to this (new Cee'd), to manufacture 290,000 cars in 2013," Eek-Hee Lee, head of Kia Slovakia, said on Thursday.
Engine production rose 29 percent to 464,000 units, and Kia plans to boost that to 490,000 this year.
Kia Slovakia, one of the country's biggest exporters, said earlier this month it might start exporting to Africa.
The car sectors is currently the sole driver of the small export-reliant economy, expected by the central bank to grow 1.6 percent this year, down from an expected 2.4 percent for 2012. (Reporting by Martin Santa; Editing by Dan Lalor)