Domestic sales by South Korea's five largest automakers fell by 2% to 131,135 units in July 2019 from 133,792 units in the same month of last year, according to preliminary data released individually by the companies.

The data did not include sales by low-volume commercial vehicle manufacturers, including Tata-Daewoo and Daewoo Bus Corporation, as well sales of imported vehicles which are 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, reflecting weakening domestic sentiment and falling exports as the trade war between the US and China continues to intensify. Bank of Korea cut its benchmark interest rate from 1.75% to 1.5% last month to help shore up consumer spending, with new models launched recently by Hyundai now struggling to lift the overall market.

Hyundai's domestic sales fell only slightly last month to 60,286 units, while Kia's sales were slightly higher at 47,080 units. Renault-Samsung saw its domestic sales rebound by over 9% to 8,308 units after months of decline, while GM Korea's sales plunged by 25% to 6,754 units and Ssangyong's sales were down by over 11% at 8,707 units.

Overall domestic sales in the first seven months of the year were slightly lower at 886,172 units from 890,194 units in the same period of 2018.

Global sales among the country's 'big-five' automakers, including vehicles produced overseas by Hyundai and Kia, fell by 1.7% to 636,881 units in July from 647,574 units a year earlier – reflecting weaker domestic and overseas sales. Total volume in the first seven months of the year was 4.5% lower at 4,503,096 units from 4,715,026 units in the same period of last year.

Overseas sales, including vehicles produced overseas by Hyundai and Kia, fell just slightly in July to 505,746 units from 513,782 units a year earlier – helped by a sales rebound in the US. Overseas sales in the first seven months of the year were still 5.2% lower at 3,142,459 units from 3,313,773 units a year earlier, reflecting weak sales in China and slowing demand in India and other emerging markets.

Hyundai Motor's global vehicle sales increased by 1.6% to 352,468 vehicles in July from 346,865 units a year earlier, reflecting mainly a moderate rebound in overseas sales. The brand's global sales in the seven months of the year were down by 4.2% at 2,478,761 units from 2,588,395 units in the same period last year.

Domestic sales fell slightly last month to 60,286 units from 60,367 a year earlier, despite the recent launch of new SUVs such as the Palisade and Santa Fe. Sales in the first seven months of the year still 7.1% higher at 444,399 units from 414,748 units. 

Overseas sales rose by 2% to 292,182 units in July from 286,498 a year earlier, but were down by 5.2% at 1,946,893 units year to date from 2,052,934 units previously, reflecting declining sales in China and other emerging markets including India. 

Hyundai hopes its sales in the US will pick up momentum in the second half of the year following the launch of the Palisade in June. The company also launched its new Venue entry level SUV in its domestic market in July and will roll out the model globally throughout the second half of the year. 

Kia Motors' global sales fell by 2.7% to 225,902 units in July from 232,182 units a year earlier, reflecting weaker overseas sales. In the first seven months of the year the brand's global sales were down by 2.5% at 1,578,531 units from 1,618,590 units previously.

Domestic sales were just slightly higher at 47,080 units last month from 47,000 units a year earlier and by almost 8% to 289,950 units in the first seven months of the year from 314,740 units. Overseas sales fell by 3.4% to 178,822 units in July from 185,182 units a year earlier and were 1.2% lower at 1,288,185 units YTD from 1,303,890 units previously, with continued weakness in China offsetting a pick up in sales in the US and Europe. 

The company is stepping up its new model launches this year with an all-new Soul SUV and the global rollout of the new Seltos entry-level SUV.

GM Korea's global sales dropped by 14% to 31,851 units in July from 37,046 units a year earlier, reflecting sharply weaker domestic and export sales. Sales in the first seven months of the year were 7.2% lower at 263,023 units from 283,432 units in the same period of last year.

Domestic sales plunged by 25% to 6,754 units last month from 9,000 units a year earlier, despite the recent launch of the updated Spark minicar and the new Trax compact crossover vehicle. Sales in the first seven months of the year were more than 17% lower at 42,352 units from 51,297 units previously.

Exports fell by over 11% to 25,097 units in July from 28,046 units a year earlier and by almost 5% to 220,671 units YTD from 231,935 in the same period of last year.

The company plans to launch the Transverse SUV and the Colorado pickup truck in the current quarter to help strengthen domestic sales. It also plans to begin local production of the Trailblazer SUV by the end of the year, which should help both domestic and export sales.

Renault-Samsung, which is 80%-owned by France's Renault, saw its global sales continued to fall in July – by over 14% to 15,874 units from 18,565 units a year earlier, reflecting sharply lower export sales. Overall sales in the first seven months of the year were almost 31% lower at 100,062 units from 144,583 units in the same period of last year.

Domestic sales rose by 9.3% to 8,308 units in July from 7,602 units a year earlier, but were more than 11% lower at 44,814 units year-to-date from 50,522 units previously. Exports plunged by almost 31% to 7,566 units last month from 10,963 units and by more than 41% to 55,248 units in the seven month period from 94,061 units previously.

SsangYong Motor, majority-owned by India's Mahindra & Mahindra, reported a 15% drop in global sales to 10,786 units in July from 12,628 units a year earlier, reflecting weaker domestic and export sales. In the first seven months of the year the brand's sales were more than 1% lower at 78,687 units from 79,576 units previously.

Domestic sales declined by over 11% to 8,707 units in July from 9,823 year earlier, but were up by 5.4% at 64,657 units year-to-date from 61,328 units a year earlier. Exports plunged by close to 33% year-on-year to 2,079 units last month from 3,093 units and were down by over 12% at 16,406 units year-to-date from 18,698 units.

Driving sales forward this year is strong global demand for the Rexton Sports SUV and the recently launched updated Korando model. In June Ssangyong also updated its Tivoli SUV, which should help underpin sales in the second half of the year.