CARACAS, March 24 (Reuters) - A Venezuelan auto assembly plant, MMC, hopes to restart output of Hyundai Motor Co vehicles by 2018 after a five-year halt due to a lack of dollars from the government to import parts, a company executive said in an interview.
Vehicle assembly has nearly ground to a halt in the crisis-stricken OPEC nation for lack of parts of assembly. The socialist-run country’s currency controls require businesses to obtain dollars through the government, but low oil prices have left it without enough hard currency to disburse.
MMC, which assembles and sells Hyundai and Mitsubishi Motors Corp vehicles in Venezuela, plans to sell imported autos in the coming months as it brings the factory back online.
“The automotive industry is cyclical; it seems like we’ve hit the bottom and we want to be ready for better times,” MMC Vice President Jose Gomez said in an interview on Thursday.
“We’re not going to wait for the good times to arrive to start getting ready.”
Venezuela’s economic crisis, characterized by triple-digit inflation and chronic product shortages, has decimated the spending power of a population that for years had the means to buy new cars.
Auto assembly in 2016 sank to a historic low of 2,849 cars, nearly 75 percent less than the year before, according to Venezuela’s automotive industry group.
Assembly plants have also struggled with labor disputes, which have forced a number of plants to halt operations over the last six months.
Hyundai’s director for Central and South America, Chenny Park, said the company was hoping to become a favorite in the Venezuelan market.
“We are beginning a new era for the Hyundai brand in Venezuela,” said Park via an interpreter.
Seoul-based Hyundai is Korea’s largest automaker and the fifth-largest world wide. (Writing by Brian Ellsworth; Editing by Matthew Lewis)