Hyundai Motor Co. Ltd. has narrowed down its choices for a U.S. manufacturing plant to two to three potential locations, with a final decision to be announced in the first half of next year, says Chief Executive Kim Dong-Jin.

The automaker now has the field narrowed from seven possible sites in five states. Mr. Kim would not specify a general location, but it is widely believed to be in the Southeastern U.S.

Hyundai's future U.S. plant is part of a strategy of localizing design, engineering and production in major markets.

The first outgrowth of its strategy was the Santa Fe cross/utility vehicle, designed in the U.S. Mr. Kim says the automaker will concentrate its North American design efforts on expanding its sport/utility (SUV) lineup. A future SUV — and potential vehicle for production at a U.S. plant — likely will be larger than the Santa Fe.

Meanwhile, Mr. Kim says that since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the U.S., Hyundai's sales only have increased. As a result, the automaker has boosted its U.S. sales targets for 2001 to 335,000 units, from 320,000.