Domestic sales among South Korea’s five main automakers increased by 2.9% to 133,935 units in April, compared with 130,145 units in the same month of last year, according to data released individually by the vehicle manufacturers.

The data does not include sales by South Korea’s low-volume commercial vehicle manufacturers, including Tata-Daewoo and Daewoo Bus Corporation, which typically account for less than 2% of the domestic market combined.

The domestic market’s positive performance in April followed even stronger annual growth of 4.8% in the previous month, helped by a 25 basis point cut in the Bank of Korea’s benchmark interest rate to 1.75% in March. Cumulative four month sales increased by 2.4% to 476,018 units, from 464,908 units in the same period of last year. 

Global sales among the country’s ‘big five’ automakers fell by 0.6% to 797,839 units, from 802,657 units a year earlier. This reflects weak overseas sales, which declined by 1.3% to 663,904 units from 672,512 units previously with the strong Korean won putting pressure on exports.

Cumulative global sales in the first four months of 2015 fell by 1.9% to 2,963,404 units, from 3,021,528 units in the same period of last year.

Hyundai Motor’s global sales declined by 0.8% to 436,859 units in April, compared with 440,208 units a year earlier, after a similar annual decline in the previous month. The company is struggling with rising competition at home from both imports and domestic brands, while in many overseas markets the appreciation of the Korean won is also making life difficult for exports.

Domestic sales fell by 4.3% to 63,050 units, from 65,891 a year earlier, reflecting weak commercial vehicle sales and a 15% drop in passenger car sales. These declines were only partly offset by a 28% rise in SUV sales. The Sonata remains its most popular model range – boosted by strong demand for the hybrid variant.

Overseas sales were flat at 373,809 units, compared with 374,317 units a year earlier, with a rise in overseas production offsetting weaker exports. 

Kia Motors’ global sales fell by 1.4% to 272,310 units in April, compared with 276,305 units a year earlier, reflecting weaker sales in overseas markets. Domestic sales increased by 11.4% to 43,461 units, driven by strong demand for the recently launched Carnival [Sedona] MPV and the continued popularity of the Sorento and Sportage SUVs.

Overseas sales fell by 3.8% to 228,310 units, from 237,300 units previously, with weak sales in key markets including Russia more than offsetting strong demand for the Sportage, Sorrento and passenger car models elsewhere. 

GM Korea’s domestic sales fell by 3% to 12,687 units in April, from 13,086 units a year earlier, as the company struggles to compete with intensifying competition from both domestic and overseas brands. 

Exports of built-up vehicles fell more sharply, by 14.6% to 40,059 units, as General Motors continues to reorganise the global supply base of Chevrolet vehicles in favour of low cost countries.

Domestic sales and exports combined, excluding CKD exports, fell by 12.1% to 52,746 units, from 59,981 units in the same month of last year, bringing the year to date total to 198,017 units – down 11.2% year on year.

Renault-Samsung’s global sales jumped by over 86% to 23,393 units in April, from 12,542 units a year earlier. Overseas sales increased by 156% to 16,375 units – reflecting the recent launch of exports of the Renault Rogue.

Domestic sales increased by 14.1% to 7,018 units, lifted by strong demand for the SM5 midsize sedan and the QM3 compact SUV. 

Ssangyong Motor, owned by India’s Mahindra & Mahindra, reported an 8.1% decline in global sales to 12,531 units in April, from 13,634 units a year earlier.

Domestic sales jumped by over 35% year-on-year to 8,130 units, helped by the recent launch of the new Tivoli compact SUV. Overseas sales fell by over 42% to 4,401 units, however, reflecting weak demand in key markets such as Russia and the Ukraine. 

Global sales in the first four months of the year fell by 9.6% to 45,296 units.

South Korean carmakers: domestic/overseas sales by brand, April 2015

Brands

Domestic

Overseas

Global

Hyundai

63,050

373,809

436,859

Kia

43,461

228,510

272,310

GM Korea

12,687

40,059

52,746

Renault-Samsung

7,018

16,375

23,393

Ssangyong

7,719

5,151

12,531

Total

133,935

663,904

797,839

Sources : www.AsiaMotorBusiness.com, industry sources.