Seltos is one of several new models Kia has in its arsenal

Seltos is one of several new models Kia has in its arsenal

Domestic sales by South Korea's five largest automakers declined by 2.5% to 136,414 units in November from 139,862 units in the same month of last year, according to preliminary data released individually by the companies.

The data did not include sales by South Korea's low volume commercial vehicle manufacturers, including Tata-Daewoo and Daewoo Bus Corporation, as well as sales of imported vehicles which will be covered in a separate report when the data is released later in the month. Together these accounted for close to 15% of total vehicle sales in the country last year.

Economic growth in South Korea has slowed sharply this year, to below 2% in the January-September quarter, reflecting deteriorating domestic sentiment and weak exports.

The trade war between the US and China continued to intensify while relations with neighbouring Japan also remain strained.

Bank of Korea cut its benchmark interest rate by 25 basis points on two occasions since July to 1.25% to help shore up consumer spending while new model launches by Hyundai and Kia are now struggling to lift the overall market.

All brands reported weaker domestic sales last month, with Hyundai's sales falling by 1.5% to 63,160 units; Kia sales by 0.2% to 48,615 units; GM Korea by 12% to 7,323 vehicles; Renault-Samsung by 3.9% to 8,076 units; and Ssangyong by 11% to 9,240 units.

Overall domestic sales in the first 11 months of the year were 1.3% lower at 1,388,367 units from 1,406,860 in the same period of 2018.

Global sales by the country's 'big five' automakers, including vehicles produced overseas by Hyundai and Kia, fell by 1.9% to 707,009 units in November from 720,892 units a year earlier – reflecting weaker domestic and overseas sales.

Total volume in the first 11 months of the year was 3.8% lower at 7.23m units from 7.51m in the same period of last year. 

Overseas sales, including exports and vehicles produced overseas by Hyundai and Kia, fell by 1.8% to 570,595 units in November from 581,030 units a year earlier, reflecting continued weak demand in some key developing markets including China, India and Russia. YTD volume was 4.2% lower at 5,353494 units from 5,588,918 units previously.

Hyundai Motor global vehicle sales fell by 2.8% to 392,247 vehicles in November from 403,368 units a year earlier, reflecting weaker domestic and overseas sales. The brand's overall sales YTD were down by 3.6% at 4,024,628 units from 4,176,449 units in the same period last year.

Domestic sales declined by 1.5% to 63,160 units last month from 64,131 units a year earlier, despite the recent launch of new SUVs such as the Palisade, Santa Fe, Kona and Venue, as well as the redesigned Sonata passenger car.

Hyundai also launched the facelifted Grandeur flagship sedan in November and has set a domestic sales target of 110,000 units for the model by the end of 2020. The company also sold a record 699 Nexo fuel cell electric SUVs last month. Total domestic sales YTD were still 2.9% higher at 675,507 units from 656,243 units previously. 

Overseas sales fell 3% to 329,087 units in November from 339,237 units a year earlier and were down by 4.9% at 3,349,121 units year to date from 3,520,206 units previously – mainly reflecting mainly declining sales in developing markets such as China, India and Russia. Sales in the US have begun to recover following the launch of the Palisade in June, while the global launch of new SUV models such as the Kona and Venue are also helping to support overseas demand. 

Kia Motors' global sales rose by 0.8% to 248,942 vehicles in November from 246,942 units a year a year earlier, reflecting stronger overseas sales. YTD,  the brand's global sales were still down by 1.1% at 2,541,474 units from 2,571,001 units previously, however.

Domestic sales fell by just 0.2% to 48,615 units last month from 48,700 units a year earlier, supported by strong demand for new SUVs including the facelifted Mohave and the new Seltos compact SUV. Year to date domestic sales were still lower by 3.8% at 471,075 units from 489,540 units a year earlier.

Overseas sales rose by 1.1% to 200,327 vehicles in November from 198,242 units a year earlier, but were still down by 0.7% at 2,067,273 year to date from 2,081,501 units previously - reflecting mainly continued weak demand in China which has more than offset higher sales in the US and Europe.

The company has stepped up its new model launches this year, with new SUVs such as the redesigned Soul, the Telluride and Seltos currently being launched globally. 

GM Korea's global sales rose by 1.8% to 39,317 vehicles in November from 38,621 units a year earlier, reflecting a rebound in export sales after a sharp decline in the previous month. Global sales YTD were more than 10% lower at 378,408 units from 420,447 units in the same period of last year.

Domestic sales continued to decline sharply in November, by 12% to 7,323 vehicles from 8,294 units a year earlier, bringing the year to date total to 67,651 units – down by more than 18% from 82,689 units previously.

Exports increased by 5.5% to 31,994 units last month from 30,327 a year earlier after declining by 26% in the previous month, with cumulative sales down by almost 8% at 310,757 units from 337,558 units a year earlier.

The company launched the US made Colorado pickup truck in South Korea in August, with deliveries starting in October, and the imported Transverse SUV in September – helping to strengthen its domestic line-up in a market dominated by Hyundai and Kia. The company also plans to begin local production of the Trailblazer SUV by the end of the year.

Renault-Samsung, which is 80%-owned by France's Renault, saw its global sales continue to drop sharply in November - by over 15% to 15,749 vehicles from 18,601 units a year earlier – reflecting mainly a sharp drop in exports. Overall sales YTD were close to 23% lower at 161,733 units from 209,126 units in the same period of last year.

Domestic sales fell by 3.9% to 8,076 units in November from 8,407 units a year earlier and were almost 6% lower at 76,879 units YTD compared with 81,564 units previously. Exports plunged by over 25% to 7,673 units last month from 10,194 units a year earlier and were down by close to 36% at 81,953 units year-to-date from 127,565 units – reflecting a sharp drop in export orders for the Rogue SUV from Nissan Motor.

The Rogue export contract was discontinued earlier this year, forcing Renault-Samsung to look elsewhere for new models to fill the void. The company began producing the Renault Twizy small electric vehicle last month with an annual domestic sales target of between 5,000-15,000 units, with the model also being shipped to Europe.  

Renault Samsung last month said it aims to lift domestic sales to over 100,000 units in 2020 with the launch of three all new models and three upgraded models during the year. This includes an all-new XM3 compact SUV to be launched in the first quarter, followed by the second generation QM3 SUV and the new ZOE battery powered electric vehicle in the second quarter of the year. The models to be revised include the SM6 sedan, QM6 SUV and Master van. 

Ssangyong Motor, majority-owned by India's Mahindra & Mahindra, reported a 17.5% drop in global vehicle sales to 10,754 units in November from 13,030 units a year earlier, reflecting weaker domestic and export demand. YTD, the brand's sales were down by over 6% at 119,876 units from 127,818 units previously on weaker sales of the Tivoli and G4 Rexton SUVs.

Domestic sales declined by close to 11% to 9,240 units in November from 10,330 a year ago and were 1.2% lower at 97,255 units year to date from 98,484 units previously. Exports plunged by almost 47% to 1,514 units last month from 2,844 units and were down by over 17% at 25,097 units cumulatively from 30,360 units.

South Korea carmakers: domestic/overseas sales by brand, November 2019

Brands DomesticOverseasGlobal
Hyundai 63160329087392247
GM Korea73233199439317
Sources: from industry sources.

Auto market intelligence
from just-auto

• Auto component fitment forecasts
• OEM & tier 1 profiles & factory finder
• Analysis of 30+ auto technologies & more