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January 4, 2022updated 21 Jan 2022 1:16pm

South Korean vehicle sales fall 3% in December

Overall domestic sales last year were down by almost 11% at 1.4m units.

By David Leggett

Domestic sales by South Korea’s five main automakers combined declined by almost 3% to 129,392 units in December 2021 from 133,061 units a year earlier, according to preliminary data released individually by the companies.

The data did 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.

Compared with previous months, the year-on-year decline was much less severe, with local manufacturers pointing to a gradual easing of supply chain bottlenecks since September. The expiry of the sales tax discount at the end of the year also helped lift local buying interest last month. Vehicle output last month continued to be affected by the global shortage of semiconductors, however.

Most local vehicle manufacturers suffered falls in domestic sales in December – the only exception being Kia which reported a 23% rebound to 47,789 units as it adjusted its sales priorities in the final month of the year. Hyundai reported a sales decline of 3.5% to 66,112 units, while Renault Samsung’s sales were down by 11% at 7,162 units and Ssangyong’s sales fell by 31% to 5,810 units. GM Korea was again the worst performing brand last month, with sales plunging by 73% to 2,519 units.

Overall domestic sales last year were down by almost 11% at 1,433,585 units from 1,606,971 units in 2020.

Global sales among the country’s “big-five” automakers, including vehicles produced overseas by Hyundai and Kia, declined by over 12% to 578,211 units in December from 659,239 units year-earlier sales, with the global shortage of semiconductors and the recent surge in coronavirus infections affecting production and sales domestically and overseas. Total vehicle sales last year were up by just 2.4% at 7,113,592 units from 6,944,094 in 2020.

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Overseas sales fell by almost 15% to 448,819 units last month from 526,178 units a year earlier, while full-year volumes were more than 6% higher at 5,680,007 units from 5,337,123 units after demand in markets such as Europe, the Americas and Russia rebounded strongly earlier in the year from depressed 2020 levels.

Hyundai Motor’s global sales dropped by almost 11% to 334,242 vehicles in December 2021 from 375,193 units a year earlier, reflecting declining domestic and overseas sales as the global shortage of semiconductors continued to affect production. Global sales last year were up by just 4% at 3,890,981 units from 3,744,737 in 2020, with a strong first half offset in part by a sharp decline in the second half of the year.  As the shortage of semiconductors became more acute in the second half of the year, Hyundai prioritised sales of its Ioniq 5 electric vehicle and sales of its Genesis premium brand globally.  Domestic sales declined by 3.5% to 66,112 units last month from 68,486 units a year earlier, while full-year sales were down by almost 8% at 726,838 units from 787,854 units. Deliveries in the second half of the year were impacted by surging coronavirus infections as well as by regional supply chain shortages, particularly semiconductors.

Overseas sales fell by almost 13% to 268,130 in December from 306,707 a year earlier, with deliveries in India falling by 32%. Full-year sales were still up by 7% at 3,164,143 units from 2,956,883 units – driven by rebounding demand in North and South America, Europe and Russia earlier in the year.

Hyundai said it expects its global sales to rise by over 11% to 4,323,000 vehicles in 2022, driven by a 13.5% rise in overseas sales to 3,591,000 units as global demand continues to recover from the recent declines. Domestic sales are expected to be just slightly higher at 732,00 units.

Kia’s global sales fell by over 4% to 208,965 vehicles in December from 217,751 units a year earlier, reflecting falling overseas sales which the company blamed on the continued global shortage of semiconductors. Full-year sales were still up by over 6% at 2,768,692 units from 2,607,414 units a year earlier, with the Sportage SUV its best-selling model globally.

Domestic sales rebounded by 23% to 47,789 units last month from 38,857 units a year earlier, as the company adjusted its sales priorities following sharp declines in previous months. Full-year sales were down by over 3% at 534,016 units from 552,399 units, despite strong demand for the Sportage and Sorento SUVs and the Carnival MPV.

Overseas sales fell by almost 10% to 161,176 units in December from 178,894 units a year earlier, while full-year volumes were still almost 9% higher at 2,234,676 units from 2,054,766 units – driven by rebounding demand in Europe and North America earlier in the year.

The automaker said it expects its global sales to grow to 3.15 million unit in 2022, including 562,000 domestic sales and 2.59 million units overseas, helped by new models such as the EV6 GT and the all-new Niro.

GM Korea’s global sales plunged by almost 71% to 13,531 vehicles in December from 46,717 units a year earlier, with the continued global semiconductor shortage affecting both domestic and export sales. Over the full year the company’s global sales declined by 36% to 237,044 units from 368,453 units in 2020.

Domestic sales plunged by 73% to 2,519 units last month from 9,259 units a year earlier and were down by over 34% at 54,292 units over the full year from 82,891 units previously. The company revealed last month it plans to strengthen it local line-up with the launch of ten electric vehicle models by 2025, which it will import from North America.

Exports plunged by almost 71% to 11,012 units in December from 37,458 units and by over 36% to 173,095 units year-to-date from 270,734 units.

Renault-Samsung, 81%-owned by France’s Renault, saw its global sales surge more than 41% to 12,718 units in December from weak year-earlier sales of 9,016 units, reflecting a strong rebound in overseas sales. Full-year global sales increased by over 14% to 132,769 units from 116,166 in 2020.

Domestic sales continued to fall last month, by almost 11% to 7,162 units from 8,010 units a year earlier and were down by 36% at 61,076 units over the full year from 95,939 units, as the automaker faced increasingly tough competition from domestic rivals Hyundai and Kia and from imports.

Exports continued to rebound strongly in December, with volumes surging to 5,556 units from 1,006 a year earlier as the company stepped up shipments of the XM3 and QM6 SUVs to Europe. Last year the company’s exports increased more than threefold to 71,693 units from 20,227 units in 2020.

Ssangyong Motor’s global sales fell by over 17% to 8,755 vehicles in December from 10,561 units a year earlier, reflecting a sharp decline in domestic sales. Total volumes were down by 22% at 84,106 units in 2021 year from 107,324 in the previous year.

Domestic sales fell by 31% to 5,810 units last month from 8,449 a year earlier and by almost 33% to 59,177 units in 2021 from 87,888 units previously. Exports jumped by 37% to 2,945 units in December from 2,142 units and were up by 28% at 24,929 units last year from 19,436 units.

A consortium led by local electric vehicle manufacturer Edison Motors Company has agreed to take over the financially-troubled automaker for KRW305bn (US$256m) and was scheduled to make a first payment of 10% of the acquisition cost upon signing the final deal the end of December.

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