South Korean car makers on Tuesday said that overall sales in May rose 18% from a year ago due to booming exports to Europe and China, although a protracted slump in local consumption hit domestic sales.

Exports by five South Korean car firms soared 44% to a combined 275,110 vehicles in May from the same period a year ago, taking total sales to 366,345, up 18% from a year earlier, a Reuters report said, though local sales shrank 23% from a year earlier as higher household debt, which led to a soured credit card boom, put the brakes on consumer spending.

Hyundai Motor, which controls half of the local market, reportedly said its sales in May rose 12% to 189,833 vehicles, helped by 25% growth in exports.

"Export numbers were at their best since October last year, helped by robust sales growth for the European markets and brisk sales elsewhere such as in China, India and Turkey," Hyundai said in a statement cited by Reuters.

Hyundai affiliate Kia, the country's second-largest car maker, reported a 44% jump in exports, which helped its total sales rise 14% to 89,484 units for the month, the news agency said.

GM Daewoo Automotive and Technology, South Korea's third-largest car maker, posted the biggest percentage increase in exports, reporting a 73% rise in total sales bolstered by exports of 3,214 units, nearly double last year's figure, Reuters said, noting that the unlisted South Korean unit of General Motors resumed exports to the key US market last year after its takeover.

In a separate announcement, GM's Australian arm, GM Holden, said on Tuesday it planned to withdraw the GM Daewoo brand from Australia by the end of this year, bowing to intense price competition, the report added.

Underscoring the clear divide between booming exports and crippled domestic sales, smaller players who have greater exposure to the local market saw sales drop last month, Reuters said.

Sport utility vehicle maker Ssangyong reported sales dropped 3% in May to 12,655 units while Renault Samsung, the unlisted South Korean unit of Renault SA, said overall sales declined 37% to 6,036 units, the report added.