The chief of South Korea's top automaker Hyundai Motor called on Monday for all-out efforts to improve the company's competitiveness, saying its global management was at a critical stage.
Chung Mong-Koo, who is faces jail over a multi-million dollar slush fund, warned that the group faced serious challenges such as higher oil prices, a weak yen and a strong won which together make Japanese auto exports cheaper and South Korean ones more expensive and tough competition.
"We should make all-out efforts to boost our competitive power," he said in a message to executives.
Hyundai along with affiliate Kia Motors is the world's sixth-largest automaker. It aims to become one of top five automakers in the world by 2010.
"The future of Hyundai, Kia, their staff and families as well as the economy of our nation depends on overseas markets," Chung said.
For the three months to March, Hyundai's net profit dropped 10.2 per cent from a year earlier due to partial strikes and a stronger won, which makes cars more expensive overseas and cuts foreign earnings when they are converted into won.
A court sentenced Chung to three years in jail in February for breach of trust and embezzling 90 billion won (98 million dollars) in company funds through fraudulent accounting.
Chung, 68, who is free on bail, has appealed the ruling.
Prosecutors accused the Chung family of raising millions of dollars for a slush fund through a Hyundai Motor unit to bribe government officials, politicians and bankers in return for business favours.
Chung has said he was not directly involved in embezzlement.
The group controls 70 per cent of the domestic auto market and accounts for 5.4 per cent of South Korea's gross domestic product.