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September 2, 2021updated 10 Sep 2021 10:23am

South Korean sales fall 4% in August

The global shortage of semiconductors and high coronavirus infections continued to disrupt vehicle production and sales.

By Graeme Roberts

Domestic sales by South Korea’s five main automakers combined fell by 4.1% to 106,247 units in August 2021 from 110,835 units a year earlier, 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 are covered in a separate report. Together these accounted for close to 15% of total vehicle sales in the country last year.

The global shortage of semiconductors and high coronavirus infections continued to disrupt vehicle production and sales in the country last month. The government has extended the discounted 3.5% vehicle sales tax rate, down from 5%, until the end of the year to help support the local market.

Kia was the only company to report an increase in domestic sales last month, of 6.6% to 41,003 units; while Hyundai sales dropped by 6.5% to 51,034 units, GM Korea was down by almost 20% to 4,745 units, Renault-Samsung by almost 25% to 4,604 units and Ssangyong by over 28% to 4,861 units.

Overall domestic sales in the first eight months of the year were down by 6.7% at 982,863 units from 1,055,346 units in the same period of 2020.

Global sales by the country’s ‘big-five’ automakers, including vehicles produced overseas by Hyundai and Kia, declined by 4.5% to 544,932 units in August 2021 from weak year earlier sales of 570,601 units, with the global shortage of semiconductors affecting production and sales domestically and overseas.

Total vehicle sales in the first eight months of the year were still up by almost 15% at 4,842,121 units from 4,219,638 units previously.

Overseas sales fell by 4.6 to 438,685 units last month from 459,766 units a year earlier, while year-to-date volumes were almost 19% higher at 3,866,841 units from 3,251,416 units as demand in key markets such as Europe, South America and Russia rebounded strongly from the depressed year earlier level.

Hyundai Motor global sales fell by 7.6% to 294,591 vehicles in August from 318,700 units a year earlier, reflecting declining domestic and overseas sales as the global shortage of semiconductors affected production.

Global sales in the first eight months of the year were still up by close to 18% at 2,639,236 units from 2,243,443 units in the same period of last year, driven by strong demand for SUVs such as the Palisade, Tucson, Santa Fe and also for the Genesis luxury brand.

This week Hyundai warned global sales “could be slowed down for the rest of this year” by the current coronavirus wave and the ongoing semiconductor shortage, which could threaten its global full year sales target of an 11% increase to 4.16m vehicles on last year’s 3.74m.

Domestic sales dropped by 6.5% to 51,034 units last month from 54,590 units a year earlier, with the market disrupted by rising coronavirus infections in the country.

Cumulative eight month sales were down by 3.8% at 496,985 units from 516,584 a year earlier.

Overseas sales fell by 7.8% to 243,557 units in August from 264,110 units a year earlier, with US sales falling by 5% to 56,200 units, while cumulative eight-month volume was still up by over 24% at 2,142,251 units from 1,726,859 units a year earlier, driven by rebounding demand in North and South America, Europe and Russia.

Kia global sales were just slightly higher at 217,204 vehicles in August 2021 from 217,089 units a year earlier, with rising sales at home offsetting declining overseas deliveries.

Total volume in the first eight months of the year was up by over 18% at 1,896,030 units, from 1,604,276 units a year earlier, with the Sportage SUV its best-selling model globally.

Domestic sales rose by 6.6% to 41,003 vehicles last month from 38,463 units a year earlier and were slightly higher at 366,547 units year to date from 363,799 units previously, underpinned by strong demand for Sportage and Sorento SUVs and the Carnival MPV.

Overseas sales fell by 1.4% to 176,201 units in August from weak year earlier sales of 178,626 units, with sales in the US down by 5% at 54,009 units due mainly to the ongoing chip shortage while the cumulative eight month total was still up by 23% at 1,528,483 units from 1,240,477 units, driven by rebounding demand in Europe and North America.

The company launched the EV6 electric vehicle last month and has stepped up promotion of its new K8 sedan as it targets a 12% rise in full year global sales to 2.92m units from just over 2.6m in 2020.

GM Korea global sales plunged by 40% to 16,616 vehicles in August 2021 from 27,747 units a year earlier, with the continued global semiconductor shortage affecting both domestic and export sales.

In the first eight months of the year the company’s global sales declined by close to 17% to 190,614 units from 228,415 units previously.

Domestic sales dropped by almost 20% to 4,745 units last month from 5,898 units a year earlier and were down by almost 21% at 42,791 units in the first eight months of the year from 53,978 units.

Exports plunged by almost 46% to 11,871 units in August from 21,849 units a year earlier and by over 15% to 147,823 units year to date from 174,502 units.

Renault-Samsung reported a 17% rise in global sales to 8,846 vehicles in August 2021 from weak year earlier sales of 7,570 units, reflecting a strong surge in overseas sales.

In the first eight months of the year, global sales were still down by almost 10% at 75,805 units compared with 84,158 units previously.

Domestic sales continued to fall last month, by almost 25% to 4,604 units from an already weak 6,104 units a year earlier and were down by over 43% at 38,382 year-to-date from 67,647 units, as the automaker faced increasingly tough competition from domestic rivals Hyundai and Kia and from imports.

Exports continued to rebound strongly in August, with volume surging almost threefold to 4,242 units from 1,466 units a year earlier as the company stepped up shipments of the Renault version of the XM3 SUV to Europe. In the first eight months of the year exports more than doubled to 37,403 units from 16,512 units.

SsangYong Motor  global sales fell by over 4% to 7,675 vehicles in August from 8,027 units a year earlier, reflecting a sharp decline in domestic sales, and were down by almost 14% at 55,904 units in the first eight months of the year from 64,873 previously.

Domestic sales fell by over 28% to 4,861 units last month from 6,792 units a year earlier and by almost 27% to 39,952 units in the first eight months of the year from 54,369 units.

Exports continued to rebound in August, to 2,814 units from 1,235 units a year earlier and were up by almost 89% at 19,930 units year to date from 10,556 units.

At the beginning of September the automaker’s administrators, appointed by the Seoul Bankruptcy Court in April after the company filed for bankruptcy last December, said they were expecting formal bids for the company by mid-September, with up to three companies and consortiums said to be leading the race to acquire the automaker.

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