Domestic sales by South Korea’s five main automakers combined rose by 11% to 134,426 units in June 2023 from 121,247 a year earlier, according to preliminary wholesale 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.

The domestic vehicle market this year has been lifted by improved supplies of semiconductors compared with last year and also by new models from leading automakers such as Hyundai and Kia.

Most brands reported higher domestic sales last month, including Hyundai-Genesis with an 18% rise to 70,163 units; Kia with a 14% rise to 51,625 units; KG Mobility 5,758 units (+26%); and GM Korea 5,159 units (+16%). Renault Korea was the only domestic manufacturer to report lower sales last month, with volume plunging by 77% to 1,721 units.

Overall domestic sales rose by almost 14% to 761,626 units in the first half of 2023 from 669,345 units in the same period of last year.

South Korean automakers: domestic/overseas sales by brand, June 2023

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By GlobalData
BrandsDomesticOverseasGlobal
Hyundai70,163304,950375,113
Kia51,625               226,631278,256
GM Korea51594467249,831
KG Mobility5,758448510,243
Renault Korea1,7215,5767,297
Total134,426586,314720,740

Global sales among the country’s “big five” automakers, including vehicles produced overseas by Hyundai and Kia, increased by over 11% to 720,740 units in June from 648,799 units a year earlier, while first half sales were 13% higher at 3,975,504 from 3,528,767 units. Overseas sales increased 11% to 586,314 units last month from 527,552 units, while year to date volumes was 12% higher at 3,213,878 units from 2,859,422 units.

Hyundai Motor global sales increased by 9.5% to 375,113 units in June from 342,641 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 six months of the year were up by 11% at 2,081,462 units from 1,879,041 in the same period of last year.

Domestic sales increased by 18% to 70,163 units last month from 59,510 units a year earlier, resulting in first half sales rising 19% to 396,550 from 334,396 units helped by strong demand for the redesigned Grandeur sedan and the company’s strong SUV range. Hyundai launched the redesigned Kona compact SUV range this year, including an all-electric variant, and plans to launch the Ioniq 5 N and a new Santa Fe later in the year.

Overseas sales increased by 7.7% to 304,950 units in June from 283,131 units, while YTD volume was up 9.1% at 1,684,912 from 1,544,645 reflecting strong demand for SUVs in key regional markets including North America and Europe and also in India.

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

Kia global sales increased 7% to 278,256 vehicles in June from 259,480 a year earlier, also reflecting both strong domestic and overseas demand. Total sales in the first half of the year were up 11% at 1,575,920 units from 1,419,486 units in the same period of last year, driven by strong demand for SUVs and the new K3 sedan. Improved supplies of semiconductors have also enabled the company lift production this year.

Domestic sales rose 14% to 51,625 units last month from 45,204 a year earlier, with the new Carnival MPV and the Sorento and Sportage SUVs the best selling models. First half sales increased 12% to a record 294,853 units from 262,991 units.

Overseas sales rose 6% to 226,631 units in June from 214,276 units a year earlier and were up by 11% at 1,281,067 units YTD from 1,156,495 units, reflecting robust demand for SUV models such as the Sportage and Seltos in key regional markets including North America, Europe and India.

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

GM Korea global sales surged 87% to 49,831 vehicles in June from 26,688 a year earlier, reflecting stronger domestic and export sales following the introduction of the new Trax crossover vehicle at its Changwon plant in February. First half sales were up 75% at 214,306 units from 122,756 a year earlier.

Local sales increased 16% to 5,159 units last month from 4,433 units a year earlier, while YTD sales were up 8% at 18,984 from 17,551 units driven by strong demand for the new Trax and Bolt EV. Other GM models sold locally include the Colorado and Sierra Denali pickup trucks and the Equinox, Traverse and Tahoe SUVs, with the Cadillac Lyric scheduled to be launched later this year.

Exports doubled to 44,672 units in June from 22,255 a year earlier and by 86% to 195,322 YTD from 105,205 units.

Last month the company announced a new CEO would take charge in August. Hector Villarreal, currently the vice president in charge of vehicle sales, service and marketing at GM Mexico, would replace Roberto Rempel who will retire after serving for 40 years at the US carmaker.

KG Mobility reported a 28% increase in global sales to 10,243 vehicles in June from 7,979 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. First half sales were up by 28% at 38,969 units from 31,328 units a year earlier.

Domestic sales increased by 26% to 5,758 units last month from 4,585 units a year earlier and by 38% to 38,969 units YTD from 28,177 units. The company is preparing to launch its new battery powered Torres EVX SUV which it claims can travel up to 500km on a single charge, in the second half of the year.

KG Mobility 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 31% to 4,485 units last month from 3,424 units and by 24% to 26,176 YTD from 19,532 units.

Renault Korea global sales fell 39% to 7,297 vehicles in June from 12,011 units a year earlier, as local sales continued to decline sharply. Total sales in the first six months of the year were down by 15% at 64,847 units from 76,156 units.

Local sales plunged 77% to 1,721 units last month from 7,515 earlier, as the company struggled with rising competition from both domestic manufacturers and other imported brands, while YTD sales were down by 53% at 12,270 from 26,230 units. Exports increased by 24% to 5,576 in June from 4,496 units a year earlier, while first half volume was up by just over 5% at 52,577 from 49,926 units.

The company is making preparations to begin production of a Geely-based hybrid model at its Busan plant towards the end of the year.