Domestic sales by the five main South Korean automakers combined declined by 8.1% to 133,061 units in December 2020 from 144,839 in the same month of the previous year, according to preliminary data released individually by the companies.

The data did not include sales by the 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 account for around 14% of total vehicle sales in the country.

The South Korea domestic vehicle market benefited from a strong pipeline of new models by the leading brands last year and also from a 30% sales tax discount introduced in June until the end of the year. With new social measures introduced in December to control the COVID-19 pandemic and new variants of the virus emerging globally, consumer sentiment in the country had turned more negative.

Hyundai Motor continued to underpin the market in December, with sales rising by over 3% to 68,486 units, while sister company Kia Motors reported an almost 21% decline to 38,857 units. GM Korea enjoyed a 5% sales rise to 9,259 units while Ssangyong and Renault Samsung both saw their sales plunge by close to 20% to 8,449 and 8,010 units respectively.

Total domestic vehicle sales by the five main automakers in 2020 increased by 4.9% to 1,607,034 units from 1,531,453 in 2019, with the market having fully recovered from the sharp first quarter decline triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Global sales by the big five automakers, including vehicles produced overseas by Hyundai and Kia, fell by 4.7% to 658,520 units in December from 690,721 a year earlier – reflecting lower overseas sales. Total volume last year fell by over 12% to 6,937,907 units from 7,923,449 in 2019.

Overseas sales, including exports and vehicles produced overseas by Hyundai and Kia, fell by 4.5% to 525,459 units in December from 550,149 a year earlier, with recovering demand in key markets such as China and India offset by growing weakness elsewhere. Overseas sales last year declined by almost 17% to 5,329,753 units from 6,396,065 in the same period of last year.

Hyundai Motor‘s global sales fell by 6.4% to 373,970 vehicles in December from 399,543 a year earlier, reflecting sharply lower overseas sales. Total sales last year were down by over 15% at 3,743,514 units from 4,425,528 previously. The company’s global sales target for 2021 has been set at 4.16m units, an 11% increase on last year, comprising 741,500 domestic sales and 3.42m overseas sales. 

Domestic sales continued to expand last month, by over 3% to 68,486 units from 66,335 a year earlier, despite rising COVID-19 infections in the country leading to the introduction of tougher social distancing rules. The company’s local sales last year were up by 6.2% at 787,854 units from 741,842 in 2019.

Deliveries continued to rise on strong demand for new SUV models such as the Palisade and Tucson and the recently launched Avante compact sedan.

The company also said new Genesis models such as the G80 sedan and GV80 SUV continued to perform strongly. 

Overseas sales fell by 8.3% to 305,484 units in December from 333,118 a year earlier with renewed lockdowns in a growing number of overseas markets more than offsetting recovering demand elsewhere. Overseas sales last year were down by almost 20% to 2,955,660 units from 3,683,686 units in 2019.

Kia Motors‘ global sales rose by just over 2% to 218,256 vehicles in December 2020 from 226,829 units a year earlier, reflecting sharply lower domestic sales. Total sales last year were down by almost 6% at 2,607,337 units from 2,772,076 units in 2019.

Domestic sales plunged by almost 21% to 38,857 units last month from 49,130 a year earlier, with demand affected by measures to control the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic and recent industrial action. Full year domestic sales were still up by 6.2% at 552,400 from 520,205, driven by strong demand for the Sportage, the recently revised Seltos and the newly launched Carnival. New models launched in the fourth quarter include the Sorento SUV and K5 midsize sedan.

Overseas sales increased by less than 1% to 179,399 units in December from 177,699 a year earlier, with SUV models such as the Sportage and Seltos helping to offset weak demand in many export markets. Sales in key markets such as China are also beginning to recover. Overseas sales last year were down by over 9% at 2,054,937 units from 2,251,871 previously. 

GM Korea‘s global sales jumped by over 20% to 46,717 vehicles in December 2020 from 38,818 units a year earlier as both domestic and overseas sales rebounded following industrial action in the previous month. Full year sales were still down by almost 12% at 368,453 units from 417,226 in 2019.
Domestic sales rose by 5% to 9,259 units last month from 8,820 a year earlier and were 8.5% higher at 82,954 units over the full year compared with 76,471 in 2019 – reflecting higher demand for the Spark mini car and the Trailblazer and Traverse SUVs.

Exports jumped by almost 25% to 37,458 units in December from 29,998 units a year earlier but were still down by over 16% at 285,499 units in 2020 from 340,755 in the previous year. 

Ssangyong Motor reported a more than 18% drop in global sales to 10,561 units in December 2020 from 12,923 a year earlier, reflecting sharply lower domestic sales and exports. Global sales last year fell by over 19% to 107,324 units from 132,799 in 2019. 

The company was declared bankrupt on 21 December after it failed to meet its debt repayment obligations and this has hurt consumer confidence in the brand. Production was disrupted late in the month after suppliers refused to deliver components. 

Domestic sales plunged by 20% to 8,449 units last month from 10,574 units a year earlier and were down by over 18% at 87,888 units in 2020 from 107,789 previously. Exports fell by 10% to 2,112 units in December from 2,349 a year earlier and by 23% to 21,137 units over the full year from 27,446 in 2019.

Mahindra & Mahrindra has stated for some time it does not intend to invest further in the South Korean SUV maker and has been actively looking for a new strategic investor for more a year. News last week emerged it had held talks with an unnamed potential investor to sell a controlling stake, with a deal scheduled be finalised at the end of February. 

Renault-Samsung, 81%-owned by France’s Renault, saw its global sales plunge by almost 47% to 9,016 vehicles in December 2020 from 16,965 units in the same month of last year, reflecting falling domestic sales and exports. Global sales last year were down by 35% at 116,166 units from 178,698 in 2019.

Domestic sales declined by almost 20% to 8,010 units last month from 9,980 a year earlier despite the recent launch of the new XM3 SUV and the upgraded QM6 model, reflecting rising competition from leading domestic brands such as Hyundai and Kia. Local sales were still up by just over 10% at 95,939 units year to date from 86,859 previously. 

Exports plunged by almost 86% to 1,006 in December from 6,985 a year earlier, reflecting the discontinuation of export orders for the Rogue SUV from Nissan Motor. Total exports in 2020 were down by close to 78% at 20,031 units from 90,057 in 2019.