SEOUL - Hyundai Motor Group, South Korea's top automaker, said it planned to raise investment by 12 percent this year to its largest ever to develop eco-friendly models, and as it aims to boost global sales volume by 17 percent.

The group, which includes Hyundai Motor Co and Kia Motors Corp, will spend 10.5 trillion won ($9.35 billion) in 2010, compared with 9.4 trillion won last year.

The conglomerate has allocated 4.6 trillion won for research and development, 53.3 percent more than last year, and 5.9 trillion won for equipment investments, it said.

It plans to hire 6,000 new employees this year.

The group plans to continue investments in the development and popularisation of more fuel efficient and eco-friendly cars, for which demand is seen jumping once the economy recovers, the group said in a statement.

The plan came as the group, the world's No.4 car maker based on first-half 2009 sales, is targeting combined sales of 5.40 million vehicles in 2010, compared with 4.63 million last year.

Hyundai Motor Group aims to launch a diesel-hybrid car in 2011 and plans to bring a gasoline hybrid version of a mid-sized sedan to the United States this year.

After the announcement, shares in Hyundai rose 3.38 percent to 107,000 won as of 0540 GMT, while Kia fell 0.26 percent to 19,050 won, versus a 0.78 percent gain in the wider market .KS11. ($1=1123.5 Won)

(Reporting by Cheon Jong-woo; Editing by Jonathan Hopfner)