Domestic sales by South Korea’s five main automakers combined rose by over 9% to 130,846 units in May 2023 from 119,879 a year earlier, according to preliminary wholesale data released individually by the companies. The data does not include sales by South Korea’s low-volume commercial vehicle manufacturers such as Tata-Daewoo and Edison Motors, as well as sales of imported vehicles which are covered in a separate report.

The market in recent months has been lifted by improving supplies of semiconductors, which has helped local automakers increase production compared with last year, while domestic demand has also driven by new models from leading automakers such as Hyundai, Kia and also GM Korea.

Most local manufacturers reported higher sales last month, with Renault Korea the only exception with sales plunging by 52% to 1,778 units. Hyundai remained the leading supplier with sales rising by over 8% to 68,680 units; followed by Kia with an 11% rise to 50,821units; GM Korea 4,758 units (+71%); and KG Mobility 4,809 units (+13%).

In the first five months of 2023 overall domestic vehicle sales increased by over 14% to 626,198 units from 548,068 units in the same period of last year.

Global sales among the country’s “big-five” automakers, including vehicles produced overseas by Hyundai and Kia, increased by over 15% to 682,790 units in May from 591,135 units a year earlier, while cumulative sales were 13% higher at 3,269,036 from 2,887,947 units. Overseas sales increased by 17% to 551,944 units last month from 471,256 units, while year-to-date volumes were almost 13% higher at 2,651,818 units from 2,349,221 units.

Hyundai Motor’s global sales increased by 8% to 349,194 units in May from 323,833 a year earlier, reflecting strong domestic and overseas sales following significant new model activity over the last year and improved supplies of semiconductors. Global sales in the first five months of the year were up by 11% at 1,705,878 units from 1,536,400 in the same period of last year.

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Domestic sales increased by over 8% to 68,680 units last month from 63,373 units a year earlier, resulting in cumulative five-month sales rising by almost 19% to 326,387 from 274,886 units – helped by strong demand for the all-new Grandeur sedan and the company’s strong SUV range. Hyundai launched the all-new Kona compact SUV range this year, including an all-electric variant, and plans to launch the new Santa Fe and Ioniq 5 N later in the year.

Overseas sales increased by 7.7% to 280,514 units in May from 260,460 units, while year-to-date volumes were up by 9.4% at 1,379,491 from 1,261,514 – reflecting strong demand for its SUVs in key regional markets including North America and Europe and also in India.

Earlier this year Hyundai said it aims to increase global sales by almost 10% to 4.32 million units in 2023, helped by “optimized business strategies tailored for each region”. This includes 3.54 million overseas sales and 781,000 in its home market. 

Kia’s global sales increased by over 14% to 268,593 vehicles in May from 234,729 a year earlier, reflecting strong domestic and overseas demand. Total sales in the first five months of the year were up by almost 12% at 1,296,241 units from 1,160,006 units in the same period of last year, driven by strong demand for the SUVs and the new K3 sedan. Improved supplies of semiconductors have also enabled the company lift production this year.

Domestic sales rose by just over 11% to 50,821 units last month from 45,735 a year-earlier, with the Carnival MPV and Sorento and Sportage SUVs its best-selling models. Cumulative five-month sales were up by almost 12% at 243,226 units from 217,787 units.

Overseas sales rose by over 15% to 217,772 units in May from 188,994 units a year earlier and were up by 12% at 1,053,015 units year-to-date from 942,219 units, reflecting robust demand in key regional markets including North America, Europe, Middle-East and India

Kia has set a target of increasing its global sales by over 10% to 3.2 million units in 2023, including 585,120 domestic sales and 2.61 million units overseas. The automaker said it is continuing its transition to becoming a “sustainable mobility solutions provider” through new models, including the EV9 which was launched in March. The company’s medium-term target is to sell 4.3 million vehicles annually by 2030, of which 1.6 million units are expected to be battery electric vehicles (BEVs).

GM Korea’sglobal sales more than doubled to 40,019 vehicles in May from 15,700 a year earlier, reflecting surging domestic sales and exports after the company began production of the new Trax crossover vehicle at its Changwon plant in February and strong demand for the Bolt EV. Cumulative five-month sales were up by 71% at 164,475 units from 96,068 a year earlier.

Local sales continued to rebound strongly last month, by 71% to 4,758 units from weak year-earlier sales of 2,768 units a year earlier, while cumulative five-month sales were up by just over 5% at 13,825 from 13,118 units – reversing sharp losses earlier in the year. The company previously confirmed it planned to launch six new and upgraded models in South Korea this year, including the new Trax, the imported GMC Sierra pickup truck and the Cadillac Lyriq EV.

Exports almost tripled to 35,261 units in May from depressed a 12,932 units a year earlier, while five-month volumes were 82% higher at 150,650 units from 82,950 units.

Renault Korea‘s global sales rebounded by 76% to 15,154 vehicles May from weak year-earlier sales of 8,591 units, despite a sharp fall in local deliveries. Sales in the first five months of the year were still down by 10% at 57,550 units from 64,145 units.

Local sales fell by 52% to 1,778 units last month from 3,728 earlier, as the company struggled with rising competition from both domestic and imported brands, while cumulative sales were down by 50% at 9,549 from 18,685 units.

Exports rebounded almost threefold to 13,376 in May from 4,863 units a year earlier, while year-to-date volumes were up by just over 3% at 47,001 from 45,430 units, with the company reporting difficulties securing ships to transport its XM3 and QM6 models to Europe earlier in the year.

Renault Korea suspended production for ten days last month to reduce inventory build-up resulting mainly from weak domestic demand. Including weekends and public holidays its Busan plant was expected to operate for just ten days in May, which the company used to make preparations for the introduction of a Geely-based hybrid model towards the end of the year.

KG Mobility (formerly SsangYong) reported a19% increase in global sales to 9,830 vehicles in May from 8,282 units a year earlier, reflecting buoyant domestic and overseas sales as confidence in the company continued to return following last year’s successful takeover of the company by a consortium led by local steel and chemicals firm KG Group. Cumulative five-month sales were up by 43% at 44,892 units from 31,328 units a year earlier.

Domestic sales increased by 13% to 4,809 units last month from 4,275 units a year earlier and by 41% to 33,211 units year-to-date from 23,592 units. The company is scheduled to launch its new battery-powered Torres EVX SUV, which it claims can travel up to 500 km on a single charge, in the second half of the year. The company recently displayed three other battery-powered vehicles, including the O100 pickup truck built on a dedicated EV platform, the F100 based on the Rexton SUV and the subcompact KR10 SUV.

Exports rose by 26% to 5,051 units last month from 4,007 units and by 27% to 21,661 year-to-date from 17,108 units. In recent months the company has secured significant export contracts from Middle-Eastern distributors, including an order for 170,000 CKD kits to Saudi Arabia over a six-year period starting this year and a further 7,000 built-up vehicles to be exported to the UAE.

KG Mobility is in the process of acquiring bankrupt Edison Motors Company Ltd, a local electric commercial vehicle manufacturer that two years earlier had successfully bid to acquire KG Mobility (then known as SsangYong Motors) from bankruptcy but failed to complete the acquisition.