Redesigned Tucson was one of several new models to boost Hyundai sales

Redesigned Tucson was one of several new models to boost Hyundai sales

Domestic sales by South Korea's five main automakers combined increased by over 16% to 116,270 units in January 2021 from weak year-earlier sales of 99,962 units, 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 last year.

South Korea's domestic vehicle market last month continued to benefit from a strong pipeline of new models by the leading brands.

Hyundai continued to drive the market higher last month, with sales rising by 25% to 59,501 units; while sister company Kia Motors reported an almost 12% rise to 41,481 units. GM Korea enjoyed a 20% sales rise to 6,106 units and Ssangyong's sales increased by 1.6% to 5,648 units, albeit compared with depressed year-earlier levels. Renault-Samsung was the only brand to report a decline, of almost 18% to 3,534 units.

Global sales by the country's big-five automakers, including vehicles produced overseas by Hyundai and Kia, increased by 4.8% to 597,213 units in January 2020 from 569,929 a year earlier - reflecting higher domestic and overseas sales. 

Overseas sales rose by 6% to 480,943 units last month from 453,659 a year earlier, with higher sales in China, Russia and the Americas offset in part by weak demand in Europe – where sharp rises in COVID-19 cases have prompted governments to re-impose widespread lockdowns in recent weeks.

Hyundai Motor's global sales increased by 1.6% to 319,959 vehicles in January 2021 from 314,825 a year earlier, driven by a 25% jump in domestic sales to 59,501 units from 47,951 a year earlier – reflecting strong demand for the Grandeur and Elantra sedans, the redesigned Tucson SUV and for its luxury Genesis models. 

Overseas sales declined 2.5% to 260,458 units from 267,234, with weak sales in Europe more than offsetting recovering demand in China, the Americas and Russia. Sales in India were up by 24% at 52,000 units, according to local reports.

Hyundai said it was targeting 4.16m global sales this year, up from 3.74m units in 2020, and plans to launch its first purpose-built electric vehicle in the coming months - the Ioniq 5.

Kia Motors' global sales rose by 2.5% to 226,298 vehicles in January 2021 from 220,734 units a year earlier, driven by a 12% rise in domestic sales to 41,481 from 37,050 units. Overseas sales increased by just 0.6% to 184,817 from 183,684 units.

The company said demand was particularly strong for SUV models such as the Sorento and Sportage as well as for the new Carnival [aka Sedona] MPV.

New electric vehicle models are expected to help drive growth this year, with global sales forecast to rise by 12% to 2.92m vehicles from just over 2.6m last year.

GM Korea's global sales jumped by almost 77% to 36,126 vehicles in January 2021 from very depressed year earlier sales of 20,484 units, driven by a 95% jump in exports to 30,020 from 15,383 units.

Domestic sales were also higher last month, by almost 20% to 6,106 units from 5,101 units in the same month of last year, reflecting stronger demand for the Spark minicar and the Trailblazer SUV.

Ssangyong Motor reported a more than 13% rise in global sales to 8,678 units in January 2021 from 7,653 a year earlier, reflecting mainly a 45% rise in exports to 3,030 from 2,096 units. Domestic sales were also higher last month, by just 1.6% at 5,648 units from 5,557 in the same month of 2020.

While last month's rise came against weak year-earlier volumes, it also followed the company's bankruptcy announcement in December - after it failed to meet its debt repayment obligations. Production was also disrupted towards the end of the year, with a number of suppliers refusing to deliver components to the plant. 

Parent company Mahindra & Mahindra 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 emerged last month that it has held talks with an unnamed potential investor to sell its controlling stake, with a deal scheduled to be finalised by the end of February. 

Renault-Samsung, 81%-owned by Renault, saw its global sales fall by 1.3% to 6,152 vehicles in January 2021 from depressed year-earlier sales of 6,233 units, after domestic sales plunged by almost 18% to 3,534 from 4,303 units - despite the recent launch of the new XM3 SUV and the upgraded QM6 model.

Exports jumped by almost 36% to 2,618 from 1,930 units a year earlier, after the company shipped its first batch of new XM3 models to Europe last month.

These will be sold under the Renault brand.

South Korean carmakers: domestic/overseas sales by brand, January 2021

Brands DomesticOverseasGlobal
Hyundai 59501260458319959
GM Korea61063002036126
Sources: from industry sources