Domestic sales by South Korea’s five main automakers combined increased just slightly in October 2020, to 135,495 units from 134,895 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 as sales of imported vehicles which are covered in a separate report. Together these accounted for 14% of total vehicle sales in the country last year.

The barely positive October sales rise followed a 25% year-on-year increase in September with the market driven higher by new models from the leading brands and the 30% discount on the passenger vehicle sales tax made available until the end of the year.

Leading domestic brands made small gains in October with Hyundai reporting a 1.2% sales rise to 65,669 units, after a 34% volume increase in September, while Kia sales increased 1.8% to 48,009 units and GM Korea was up 11% at 7,064 units.

The smaller brands struggled to keep up as Ssangyong reported a 5.4% decline to 7,612 units and Renault Samsung sales fell 15% to 7,141 units.

In the first 10 months of 2020, domestic sales by the big five increased 6.4% to 1,330,382 units, from 1,250,200 in the same period of last year, with the market having fully recovered from the first quarter decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Global sales, including vehicles Hyundai and Kia produced overseas, fell 1.1% to 700,782 units in October from 708,406 units a year earlier, reflecting weak overseas sales. Volume in the first 10 months of the year was down by over 14% to 5,605,347 units from 6,522,262 in the same period of last year.

Overseas sales, including exports and vehicles Hyundai and Kia made abroad, fell 1.4% to 565,287 units last month from 573,511 units a year earlier, with recovering demand in key markets such as China and the US offset by weakness elsewhere. Overseas sales in the first 10 months of the year were still down by almost 19% at 4,273,845 units from 5,271,864.

Hyundai Motor‘s global sales fell by 4.2% to 385,947 vehicles in October from 402,712 units a year earlier, reflecting lower overseas sales. Sales in the first 10 months of the year were down by 18% at 2,991,101 units from 3,632,381 in the same period of last year. 

Domestic sales increased by 1.2% to 65,669 units last month from 64,912 units a year earlier, after jumping by 34% year on year in September, reflecting strong demand for new SUV models such as the Palisade, Santa Fe and Tucson as well as for the new Avante compact sedan. The company said demand for new Genesis models, such as the G80 sedan and GV80 SUV, also performed strongly. Domestic sales in the first 10 months of the year were 6% higher at 649,333 units from 612,347 units previously.

Overseas sales fell by over 5% to 320,278 units in October from 337,800 a year earlier, with recovering demand in China and India more than offset by continued weakness elsewhere. Year to date, Hyundai overseas sales were down by over 22% at 2,341,768 units from 3,020,034.

Kia Motors‘ global sales rose by just over 6% to 265,714 vehicles in October from 250,515 a year earlier, reflecting mainly a rebound in overseas sales driven by strong demand for newly launched SUVs. Total sales YTD were still down by 7.2% at 2,129,851 units from 2,294,295.

Domestic sales rose by just 1.8% to 48,009 units last month from 47,143 after strong growth in the previous month. The cumulative YTD total was up 9.6% at 463,020 from 422,460, driven by strong demand for the Sportage, the recently revised Seltos and the newly launched Carnival minivan. New models due out in the fourth quarter include the Sorento SUV and K5 midsize sedan.

Overseas sales increased by just over 7% to 217,705 units in October from 203,372, with new models helping to offset weak demand in key export markets. Sales in key markets such as the US and China have stabilised and are beginning to recover. Overseas sales YTD were still down by over 10% at 1,842,780 units from 2,057,214 units previously. To help drive its overseas recovery Kia plans to roll out the new Soul box and Seltos models in global markets in the fourth quarter.

GM Korea‘s global sales rose 4.1% to 31,391 vehicles in October from 30,158 a year earlier, reflecting higher domestic sales and exports. In the first ten months of 2020 the company’s global sales were down by 12% at 300,352 units from 339,292 in the same period of last year.

Domestic sales rose by 11% to 7,064 units last month from 6,394 a year earlier, reflecting strong demand for the Trailblazer and Traverse SUVs and the Colorado pickup truck. Local sales year to date were more than 11% higher at 67,139 units from 60,328 units previously.

Following the launch of the new-generation Bolt electric vehicle in the first quarter of the year, GM Korea said it would increasingly target South Korea’s generous zero emission vehicle sales incentives.

Exports increased by 2.4% to 24,327 units in October from 23,764 units a year earlier, but were down by almost 18% at 233,213 units YTD from 278,763 units previously.

Ssangyong Motor, majority owned by Mahindra & Mahindra, reported a slight increase in global sales to 10,197 units in October from 10,135 units a year earlier, reflecting a strong rebound in export sales. Overall sales YTD were down by over 22% at 84,904 units from 109,122 units in the same period of last year. 

Domestic sales fell by 5.4% to 7,612 units last month from 8,045 units a year earlier and were down by over 20% at 70,169 units year to date from 87,975 units previously, despite the recent launch of the facelifted Tivoli Air SUV in the local market.

Exports rebounded by 24% to 2,585 units in October from 2,090 units a year earlier following a sharp fall in September and were still down by almost 36% at 14,797 units year to date from 23,091 units despite the launch of the new models earlier this year including the new entry level 1.2-litre Tivoli SUV in Europe.

The company has struggled with mounting losses for some years and its performance has deteriorated significantly this year as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Mahindra in August reiterated its stated intention to sell its controlling stake in Ssangyong to a new strategic investor, but no news has emerged so far of any potential bid.

Renault-Samsung, 81% owned by Renault, saw its global sales fall by 49% to 7,533 vehicles in October from 14,826 units in the same month of last year, reflecting sharp declines in both domestic sales and exports. Total volume YTD fell by close to 32% to 99,077 units from 144,736 in the same period of last year.

Domestic sales fell by 15% to 7,141 units last month from 8,401 units a year earlier despite the recent launch of the new XM3 SUV, reflecting rising competition from leading domestic brands such as Hyundai and Kia. Local sales were still up by over 17% at 80,722 YTD from 68,803 units previously. 

Exports plunged by almost 94% to 392 in October from 6,425 units a year earlier, reflecting mainly the discontinuation of export orders for the Rogue SUV from Nissan Motor. Export volume in the first 10 months of the year was down by almost 76% at 18,158 units from 75,399 units.