Kia grabbed a 34.5% share of the South Korean market in May, its second highest level since Hyundai took control of the company in 1998. Kia’s highest share was 35% in November 2008.

Hyundai saw its share slip to 42.4%; in January it held 50.1%.

Kia’s growth has been helped by the launch of new models such as the mid-sized K5 (Magentis) saloon and redesigned Sportage compact SUV ahead of similar new models from Hyundai.

The success of the K5 saw Hyundai Sonata’s monthly sales figure fall below 10,000 units for the first time since its launch last September.]

Analysts doubt that Kia will overtake Hyundai for outright market leadership.

“Kia could overtake Hyundai temporarily, as the follow up models for Hyundai’ s Avante and Grandeur have yet to make their debut,” said HMC Investment Securities’ Kang Young-il.

“In the long term, while the gap between the two will be reduced it’s unlikely that Kia will overtake Hyundai. The two companies are on a different scale, and in terms of sales network and production capacity Hyundai has the upper hand.”