With record output making it the world's number one auto maker per capita, Slovakia almost doubled car production in 2007, the Slovak car industry association announced in a news conference on April 8.

"Car production in Slovakia reached a record 571,071 in 2007," association director Jozef Uhrik said, adding that the average of 105.7 cars manufactured for every thousand inhabitants put it in first place worldwide for production per head.

Slovakia hosts three car manufacturers, Volkswagen, PSA Peugeot Citroen and South Korea's Kia.

The steep rise in production last year was largely due to the launch of production at Kia's plant in the northern town of Zilina at the end of 2006 and rising output at Peugeot Citroen's plant in the western town of Trnava.

The pace of the production rise is expected to slow in 2008 with the association giving a "conservative" estimate of 640,000 cars rolling off production lines by the end of the year. "Slovakia and the Czech Republic manufacture more than 2 million cars a year already," Uhrik pointed out.

Russia, Ukraine and also Belarus are likely to become growing exports markets for Slovak produced cars, he added.

Uhrik underlined better education of auto workers, who must be trained by their employers because the current education system does not prepare them, a change in migration policy which would allow foreigners to be recruited for unfilled jobs and the completion of key national motorways as priorities for the industry.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2008