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South Korean sales fall in March, rise YTD

By just-auto.com editorial team | 2 April 2019

Continued demand for the Sportage gave Kia an overseas markets boost

Continued demand for the Sportage gave Kia an overseas markets boost

Domestic sales by South Korea's five largest automakers declined by 0.8% to 138,288 units in March from 139,432 units in the same month of last year, according to preliminary data released individually by the vehicle manufacturers.

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 when the data is released later in the month. Together they accounted for close to 15% of total vehicle sales last year.

The performances of the individual brands varied significantly last month, with Hyundai's sales rising by 3.7% year on year to 70,111 units while Kia's sales fell by almost 9% to 44,233 units. Renault-Samsung reported the sharpest decline, of 16% to 6,540 units, while Ssangyong sales jumped by 19% to 10,984 units and GM Korea's sales were 2.4% higher at 6,420 units.

Overall domestic sales in the first quarter of 2019 were 0.8% higher at 360,059 units from 357,316 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 2.5% to 702,159 units in March from 720,043 units a year earlier, reflecting mainly weaker overseas sales. Volume in the first quarter of the year was 2.8% lower at 1,858,997 units compared with 1,911,713 units in the same period of last year.

Overseas sales, including vehicles produced abroad by Hyundai and Kia, fell by 2.9% to 563,871 units last month from 580,611 units a year earlier and by 2.1% to 1,024,663 units year to date from 1,046,674 units. This reflected continued weak sales in China and slowing demand in South America, which more than cancelled out buoyant demand in Russia and key markets in Asia, while sales in Europe and the US were slightly positive.

Hyundai Motor's global vehicle sales declined by 2.2% to 389,160 units in March from 397,747 units a year earlier, with continued strong domestic sales more than offset by weaker overseas demand. First quarter global sales were down 2.8% at 1,020,374 units from 1,049,389 in the same period last year.

Domestic sales in March continued to be lifted by strong demand for new SUVs such as the Palisade and Santa Fe and the new Sonata passenger car, with overall deliveries to dealers rising by 3.7% to 70,111 units from 67,577 a year earlier. Sales in the first three months of 2019 were 8.7% higher at 183,957 units from 169,203 units in the same period of last year.

Overseas sales fell by 3.4% to 319,049 last month from 330,170 units a year earlier and by 1.3% to 749,713 units in the first quarter from 759,481 units previously, reflecting continued weak sales in China and flat sales in the EU and US.

Kia Motors' global sales were flat at 242,617 units in March from 242,608 units a year earlier, with weaker domestic sales offset by rising overseas sales. In the first three months of the year the brand's global sales increased by just 0.6% to 650,143 units from 646,374 a year earlier.

Domestic sales fell by 8.9% to 44,233 units last month from 48,540 units a year earlier and by 7.4% to 115,465 units in the first quarter from 124,650 units a year earlier, mainly as the brand struggled to compete with new models from Hyundai. 

Overseas sales rose by 2.2% to 198,384 in March from 194,068 a year earlier and by 2.3% to 533,707 units year to date from 521,724 units previously, helped by recovering sales in the US and strong global demand for the Sportage SUV.

Kia said it plans to step up new model launches globally this year, including a redesigned Soul SUV and a new entry-level SUV, codenamed SP2.

GM Korea's global sales rose by 4.2% to 42,996 units in March from 41,260 units a year earlier, reflecting a rebound in both domestic and export sales. First quarter sales were still 5% lower at 114,419 units from 120,386 units in the same period of last year.

Domestic sales climbed by 2.4% to 6,420 units last month from 6,272 units a year earlier on higher demand for the Trax compact crossover vehicle and the Equinox SUV which is imported from the US. Sales in the first three months of the year were still more than 16% lower at 16,650 units from 19,920 units previously.

Exports rose by 4.5% to 36,576 units in March from 34,988 units a year earlier but were 2.7% lower at 97,769 units year to date from 100,466 in the same period of last year.

Renault-Samsung's global sales continued to plunge in March, by close to 49% to 13,796 vehicles from 27,059 units a year earlier, on particularly weak export volumes. Sales in the first three months of the year were almost 40% lower at 39,210 units from 64,900 units in the same period of last year.

Domestic sales fell by over 16% to 6,540 units in March from 7,800 units a year earlier, while year-to-date sales were almost 15% lower at 16,637 units from 19,555 units. Exports plunged by over 62% to 7,256 units from 19,259 units a year earlier and by over 50% to 22,573 units year-to-date from 45,345 units.

Ssangyong Motor, majority owned by India's Mahindra & Mahindra, reported a 16% rise in global sales to 13,158 units in March from 11,369 units a year earlier, reflecting strong domestic and overseas demand for the Rexton SUV. In the first three months of the year, the brand's sales rose by 9.7% to 33,627 units from 30,664 units in the same period of last year.

Domestic sales rose by 19% to 10,984 units in March from 9,243 units a year earlier, driven by strong demand for the Rexton Sports SUV range. The company launched an updated Korando model last month which should help further strengthen sales this year. Year to date domestic sales were 14% higher at 27,350 units compared with 23,988 units previously.

Exports rose by 23% to 2,606 units last month from 2,126 units a year earlier and by over 12% to 7,501 units year to date from 6,676 units.

South Korea carmakers: domestic/overseas sales by brand, YTD 2019

Brands Domestic January 2019FebruaryMarchAprilMayOverseas JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayGlobal JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayYTD Total
Hyundai 60,44053406701117141367756252,873259766319049297512289759313,3133131723891603689253575151742085
Kia38,01033222442334200043000170,898164425198384185773196059208,9081976472426172277732390591116004
GM Korea5,053517764206433672733,6522754136576328093433338,70532718429963924241060194721
Renault-Samsung5,174492365406175n/a8,519679872567545n/a13,6931172113796137201257265502
Ssangyong8,78775791098410275n/a2,633226226062438n/a11,420948113590127131399461198
Total117,464104307138288136296n/a468,575460792563871526077n/a586,0395647397021596623736642003179510
Sources: www.AsiaMotorBusiness.com, industry sources