Domestic sales by South Korea’s five main automakers combined declined by over 19% to 93,900 units in January 2022 from 116,270 units 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 ongoing shortage of semiconductors continued to impact production among the country’s main manufacturers last month, affecting both domestic and overseas sales. Domestic market activity was also held back by a surge in coronavirus infections in the country, while demand was also affected by the expiry of the sales tax discount at the end of last year.

Most local vehicle manufacturers suffered falls in domestic sales in January, with Renault-Samsung the only exception after it reported a 27% rise to 4,477 units from weak year earlier levels. Hyundai reported a 22% decline to 46,205 vehicles; followed by Kia with an almost 5% fall to 212,819 units; Ssangyong 4,836 units (-14%); and GM Korea 1,344 units (-78%).

Domestic sales last year fell by 11% to 1,433,585 units from 1,606,971 units in 2020, while separate data released by the Ministry of Transport last week showed new vehicle registrations, including imported vehicles, fell by 9% to 1.74m in 2021 from 1.92m previously.

Global sales among the country’s big five automakers, including vehicles produced overseas by Hyundai and Kia, declined by over 11% to 528,848 units in January from 597,213 units a year earlier, after growing by 2.4% to 7,113,592 units last year despite an acute shortage of semiconductors and a resurgent covid pandemic in the second half of the year.

Overseas sales declined by nearly 10% to 434,948 units in January from 480,943 units a year earlier, with stronger sales in the US offset by falling volume in key overseas market such as India and Europe, after growing by 6% to 5,680,007 units in 2021.

Hyundai Motor global sales dropped by over 12% to 282,204 vehicles in January 2022 from 321,068 units a year earlier, reflecting declining domestic and overseas sales as the global shortage of semiconductors continued to affect production and inventory levels. This followed a 4% rise to 3,890,981 units in 2021 from 3,744,737 units previously, with a strong first half performance mostly offset by a weak second half of the year.

Domestic sales plunged by over 22% to 46,205 units last month from 59,501 units a year earlier, while overseas sales were down by just under 10% at 235,999 units from 261,567 units with stronger sales in the Americas and in the Asia-Pacific region offset by weakness elsewhere. Sales in key regional markets such as Europe were affected by the recent resurgence of the coronavirus.

Despite last month’s decline, Hyundai reconfirmed its expectations for 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 and a slight rise in domestic sales to 732,00 units. The automaker said it would “minimise the impact of business uncertainties such as the global chip shortage, by optimising production, diversifying business strategies tailored for each region and launching new battery electric models including the electrified GV70 and IONIQ 6 this year”.

Kia global sales fell by almost 6% to 212,819 vehicles in January from 225,733 units a year earlier, reflecting falling overseas sales which the company blamed on the continued global shortage of semiconductors and the recent resurgence of the coronavirus pandemic. Last year the company’s global sales increased by over 6% to 2,768,692 units, with the Sportage SUV its best selling model.

Domestic sales fell by almost 11% to 37,038 units last month from 41,481 units a year earlier, after a strong rebound in December, while overseas sales were down by 5% at 175,781 units from 184,252 units.

Last month the automaker said it expects its global sales to grow to 3.15m unita in 2022, including 562,000 domestic sales and 2.59m overseas, helped by new models such as the EV6 GT and the redesigned Niro.

Renault-Samsung saw its global sales more than double to 13,314 vehicles in January from weak year earlier sales of 6,152 units, reflecting a strong rebound in overseas sales as well as an increase in domestic deliveries. Last year the company’s global sales fell by 14% to 132,769 vehicles.

Domestic sales rose by nearly 27% to 4,477 units in January from 3,534 units a year earlier, while exports more than tripled to 8,837 units from 2,618 units as the company stepped up shipments of the XM3 and QM6 SUVs to Europe.

GM Korea global sales plunged by a further 64% to 12,911 vehicles in January from 36,126 units a year earlier, after a 71% drop in December, with the continued global semiconductor shortage affecting both domestic and export sales. Last year the automaker’s global sales plunged by 36% to 237,044 units.

Domestic sales dropped by 78% to 1,344 units last month from 6,106 a year earlier, while exports were down by 62% at 11,567 units from 30,020 units. In December the company said it plans to strengthen it local line-up with the launch of 10 new electric vehicle models by 2025, which it will import from North America.

Ssangyong Motor global sales fell by almost 13% to 7,540 vehicles in January from 8,648 units a year earlier, reflecting declining domestic and overseas sales. This follows a 22% decline to 84,106 units in 2021.

Domestic sales fell by 14% to 4,836 units last month from 5,648 a year earlier, while exports were down by almost 9% at 2,764 units from 3,030 units, which the company also blamed on the global semiconductor shortage.

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 at the end of January.

Last month Ssangyong began taking pre-orders for its first electric vehicle, the Korando e-Motion subcompact SUV, fitted with a 51 kWh lithium-ion battery pack supplied by LG Energy Solution. It is priced at between KRW39m and KRW46m (US$32,500-US$38,300) before government subsidies.

BrandsDomesticOverseasGlobal
Hyundai46,205235,999282,204
Kia37,038175,781212,819
Renault-Samsung4,4778,83713,314
GM Korea1,34411,56712,911
Ssangyong4,8362,7647,600
Total93,900434,948528,848
Sources: www.AsiaMotorBusiness.com from industry sources.