Domestic sales by South Korea's five largest automakers combined increased by just over 10% to 144,422 units in July 2020 from 131,135 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 are released later in the month. Together these accounted for 14% of total vehicle sales in the country last year.

The domestic vehicle market has recovered strongly from a sharp decline in the first quarter of the year, when local manufacturers were forced to shut down operations because of regional supply chain disruptions and government efforts to limit the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic. South Korea has managed the coronavirus outbreak better than most in Asia, with its quick implementation of track and trace systems, and this is reflected in the quick return to near normal day to day activity in the country.

Hyundai led the market higher in July, with sales surging by over 28% year on year to 77,381 units, helped by particularly strong demand for its Grandeur sedan and its upmarket Genesis models. GM Korea's sales rose by 3.5% to 6,988 units last month, while Kia's sales were slightly lower at 47,050 units. Renault Samsung and Ssangyong continued to struggle, however, with domestic sales falling by 24% to 6,301 units and 23% to 6,702 units respectively.

In the first seven months of 2020 domestic sales by the big five automakers were 6.6% higher at 944,510 units from 886,172 units in the same period of last year. 

Global sales among the country's 'big five' automakers, including vehicles produced overseas by Hyundai and Kia, continued to fall in July, by 19% to 584,042 units from 642,973 units a year earlier, reflecting declining overseas sales. Global sales in the first seven months of the year were down by over 19% at 3,639,246 units from 4,509,202 in the same period of last year.

Overseas sales, including exports and vehicles produced overseas by Hyundai and Kia, fell by over 14% to 439,620 units last month from 511,838 units a year earlier, as overseas markets struggled to recover from earlier measures to help contain the global COVID-19 pandemic. Overseas sales in the first seven months of the year were down by over 27% at 2,645,694 units from 3,625,052 units in the same period of last year.

Hyundai Motor's global sales fell by 12.5% to 313,097 vehicles in July from 357,862 units a year earlier, reflecting sharply lower overseas sales, resulting in a more than 25% drop in cumulative seven month sales to 1,920,499 units from 2,484,169 units previously.

Hyundai's domestic sales jumped by over 28% to 77,381 units last month from 60,286 units a year earlier, with deliveries rebounding strongly after extensive plant shutdowns and supply chain disruption earlier in the year. Domestic sales in the first seven months of the year were almost 4% higher at 461,994 units from 444,399 units previously.

New models have also helped Hyundai's domestic sales rebound in the last few months, including the new generation Avante and Genesis G80 passenger cars, the GV80 SUV and the upgraded Sonata. More new models were unveiled in June, including the new Genesis G90 and the revised Santa Fe SUV.

Overseas sales fell by close to 21% to 235,716 units in July from 297,576 units a year earlier, with many key overseas markets still struggling to recover from the recent COVID-19 related economic lockdowns. In the first seven months of the year overseas sales were down by almost 31% at 1,458,505 units from 2,039,770 units previously.

Kia Motors' global sales fell by almost 3% to 219,901 units in July from 226,600 units a year earlier, reflecting mainly a sharp decline in overseas sales. Its global sales were down by over 12% at 1,384,636 units in the first seven months of the year from 1,579,229 units a year earlier.

Domestic sales last month were just slightly lower at 47,050 units from 47,080 units a year earlier, although the cumulative seven month total was 12% higher at 325,337 from 289,950 previously, driven by strong demand for SUV models such as the Sorento, Sportage and the recently revised Seltos.

Overseas sales fell by 3.7% to 172,851 units in July from 179,520 units a year earlier, with new models helping to stimulate demand after sharp declines in previous months. Overseas sales in the first seven months of the year were down by almost 18% at 1,059,299 from 1,289,279 units previously.

GM Korea's global sales rose by almost 9% to 34,632 units in July from 31,851 units in the same month of last year, reflecting higher domestic and overseas sales. This followed weak sales in previous months, reflected in the 24% sales decline in the first seven months of the year to 200,670 units from 263,023 units in the same period of last year.

Domestic sales rose by 3.5% to 6,988 units last month from 6,754 units a year earlier, helped by the recent launch of the locally made Trailblazer SUV and strong demand for the Transverse model. Local sales in the first seven months of the year were more than 13% higher at 48,080 units from 42,352 units previously.

In June General Motors reconfirmed its commitment to the South Korean market, saying it would make increasing use of the country's generous zero emission vehicle sales incentives starting with the launch of its new generation Bolt electric vehicle.

Exports increased by 10% to 27,644 units in July from 25,097 units a year earlier, but were down by almost 31% at 152,590 units in the first seven months of the year from 220,671 units previously. 

Renault-Samsung, 80% owned by Renault, saw its global sales fall by close to 44% to 8,923 vehicles in July from 15,874 units in the same month of last year, reflecting sharp declines in both domestic and export sales. Total volumes in the first seven months of the year fell by close to 25% to 76,588 units from 101,718 units previously.

Domestic sales fell by 24% to 6,301 units last month from 8,308 units a year earlier, despite the recent launch of the new XM3 SUV and strong demand for the larger revised QM6. Local sales were still up by over 37% at 61,543 units year to date from 44,814 units previously. In July the company launched a revised version of the SM6 sedan to help lift sales.

Exports plunged by over 65% to 2,622 units in June from 7,566 units a year earlier, reflecting mainly the discontinuation of export orders for the Rogue SUV from Nissan Motor of Japan. Export volumes in the first six months of the year were down by close to 74% at 15,046 units from 56,904 units.

Ssangyong Motor, majority-owned by Mahindra & Mahindra, reported a 29% drop in global sales to 7,489 units in July from 10,498 units a year earlier, reflecting sharp declines in both domestic and export sales. Overall sales in the first seven months of the year were down by almost 28% at 56,846 units from 78,687 in the same period of last year. 

Domestic sales fell by 23% to 6,702 units last month from 8,707 units a year earlier, resulting in a more than 26% drop in year to date sales to 47,557 units from 64,657 units.

Exports plunged by over 62% to 787 units in July from 2,079 units a year earlier and by over 41% to 9,351 units year to date from 15,974 units, despite the launch in April of a new entry level version of its Tivoli SUV in Europe fitted with a 1.2 litre engine.

The company has struggled with mounting losses for some years and its performance has deteriorated further this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. In April Mahindra and Mahindra injected KRW40bn (US$33m) to help keep the company afloat, but this was seen as just a short term fix and the Indian parent has since made clear it is looking to sell its stake in the SUV manufacturer.

In May Ssangyong sold its main service centre in Guro, Seoul, in a sale and lease back deal to help improve liquidity.