Domestic sales by South Korea’s five main automakers combined rose 7% to 100,448 units in January 2023 from weak year earlier sales of 93,900 units, according to preliminary wholesale data released individually by the companies.
As usual, the data did not include sales by low volume commercial vehicle manufacturers such as Tata-Daewoo and Edison Motors, or sales of imported vehicles which are covered by a separate report.
Component shortages, particularly semiconductors, had eased significantly since the first half of last year while leading domestic brands had been busy launching new models which helped stimulate consumer demand.
Hyundai domestic sales rose 11.5% to 51,503 units last month while Kia volume was up 5% at 38,678 units.
Ssangyong reported a 47% rebound to 7,130 units in January from a weak January 2022 as confidence in the brand began to return following its takeover by a consortium led by local steel and chemicals firm KG Group. GM Korea sales fell 24% to 1,021 units while Renault Korea volume plunged 53% to 2,116 units.
Last year, the overall domestic vehicle market declined 3% to 1,392,179 units from 1,431,264 in 2021.
Global sales among the country’s “big-five” automakers, including vehicles produced overseas by Hyundai and Kia, increased 8.7% to 575,729 units in January from 529,660 units a year ago, reflecting mainly a 9% increase in overseas sales to 475,281 units from 435,724 units.
Hyundai Motor global sales increased 8.4% to 306,296 units in January from 282,656 a year earlier, reflecting buoyant domestic and overseas demand fuelled by recent new model launches. Domestic sales rose 11.5% to 51,503 units last month from 46,205 a year earlier, driven by strong demand for SUVs and EVs. The company launched the redesigned Grandeur sedan and Ioniq 6 EV in October, followed by the Kona compact SUV in January.
Overseas sales increased 8% to 254,793 units in January from 236,451 units, helped by strong sales in the Americas, Europe, India and Asia Pacific.
Hyundai is targeting a 10% increase in global sales to 4.32m units in 2023, helped by “optimised business strategies tailored for each region”. This includes 3.54m overseas sales and 781,000 in its home market. The company said it planned to more flexibly respond to market changes, accelerate its switch to electrification, respond to global environmental regulations and optimise production, logistics and sales by region.
The automaker said it planned to launch battery powered versions of the new Kona, the redesigned Santa Fe SUV and the high-performance Ioniq 5 N later in the year.
Kia global sales rose 9% to 232,437 vehicles in January from 213,239 a year earlier, driven by strong domestic and overseas sales. The three best selling models last month were all SUVs with global sales of the Sportage amounting to 32,521 units, Seltos 27,075 and Sorento 16,386.
Domestic sales rose 5% to 38,678 units last month from 36,915 a year earlier, driven by strong demand for the new Carnival MPV and for SUVs such as the Sportage.
Overseas sales rose 10% to 193,456 units from 176,105, reflecting robust demand in key regional markets including North America, Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Kia has set a target of increasing its global sales by 10% to 3.2m in 2023, including 585,120 domestic sales and 2.61m overseas. The automaker said this year it planned to accelerate its transformation into sustainable mobility solutions provider by introducing innovative mobility products and services. It also plans to strengthen its EV line up worldwide with the launch of the EV9 SUV later this year and step up global sales of its popular EV6.
GM Korea global sales surged 26% to 16,251 vehicles in January from a weak 12,911 units a year earlier, reflecting a 32% jump in exports to 15,230 units from 11,567, driven by increased shipments of the Trailblazer SUV.
Local sales fell 24% to 1,021 units last month from already weak year earlier sales of 1,344 units, despite the automaker continuing to beef up its domestic model line with imports from the US with the upgraded Equinox and Tahoe SUVs the most recent arrivals.
The company said it planned to launch six new and upgraded models in South Korea this year, including the redesigned Trax crossover in the first quarter of 2023,
which it plans to assemble at its plant in Changwon, to be followed by the Cadillac Lyriq EV and other imported vehicles including a GMC model later in the year. It also said it plans to launch 10 new EVs by 2025.
GM has two plants in Bupyeong and Changwon with a combined production capacity of 500,000 vehicles which make the Trailblazer SUV and the Spark minicar respectively. The company said it planned to produce new models locally to help lift both domestic sales and exports, as it looks to expand the role of its South Korean operations within its global network.
Renault Korea global sales continued to fall sharply in January, by almost 25% to 10,045 vehicles from 13,314 a year earlier, reflecting falling domestic and overseas sales.
Local volume plunged 52% to 2,116 units from 4,447 a year earlier as competition in this market continued to rise. Last year Renault said it planned to produce its first EV in South Korea in 2026 but this may well be brought forward.
Exports fell 10% to 7,929 from 8,837 units with the automaker saying it struggled to secure shipping contracts for its XM3 and QM6 exports to Europe at a reasonable cost.
Ssangyong Motor global sales jumped 46% to 10,973 vehicles in January from 7,540 a year earlier, reflecting higher domestic and overseas sales as confidence in the brand continued to rise following last year’s successful takeover by a consortium led by local steel and chemicals firm KG Group.
Domestic sales surged 47% to 7,130 units last month from 4,836 while exports rose 40% to 3,873 from 2,764.