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South Korean sales up slightly in April

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

New SUVs like Santa Fe gave Hyundai a domestic push in April

New SUVs like Santa Fe gave Hyundai a domestic push in April

Domestic sales by South Korea's five largest automakers increased by 1.6% to 136,296 units in April 2019 from 134,197 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 they accounted for close to 15% of total vehicle sales in the country last year.

The performances of the individual brands varied significantly last month, with Hyundai's sales rising by 12% year-on-year to 71,413 units while Kia's sales fell by close to 16% to 42,000 units. Renault-Samsung also reported a sales sharp decline, of 11% to 6,175 units, while Ssangyong's sales jumped by 26% to 10,275 units and GM Korea's were almost 20% higher at 6,433 units.

Overall domestic sales in the first four months of the year were 1% higher at 496,355 units from 491,513 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 662,373 units in April from 705,004 units a year earlier, reflecting weaker overseas sales. Total volume in the first four months of the year was 3.6% lower at 2,522,126 units compared with 2,616,717 units in the same period of last year.

Overseas sales, including vehicles produced overseas by Hyundai and Kia, fell by 7.8% to 526,077 units last month from 570,807 units a year earlier and by 4.1% to 1,550,740 units year-to-date from 1,616,751 units. This reflects continued weak sales in China and slowing demand in South America and India while sales in the US are beginning to improve.

Hyundai Motor's global vehicle sales declined by 5.8% to 368,925 units in April from 391,783 units a year earlier, with strong domestic sales more than offset by weaker overseas demand. Sales in the first four months of the year were down by 3.5% at 1,390,302 units from 1,441,172 in the same period last year.

Domestic sales in April continued to be lifted by strong demand for new SUVs such as the Palisade and Santa Fe, with overall deliveries to dealers rising by 12% to 71,413 units from 63,788 a year earlier. Sales in the first four months of 2019 were 9.6% higher at 255,370 units from 232,991 units a year earlier.

Overseas sales fell by 9.3% to 297,512 last month from 327,995 units a year earlier and by 3.7% to 1,047,225 units in the first four months of the year from 1,087,476 units previously, reflecting continued weak sales in China and other emerging markets including Latin America. The company hopes its sales in the US will pick up momentum in the second half of the year following the mid-year launch of the Palisade.

Kia Motors' global sales fell by 5.3% to 227,773 units in April from 240,620 units a year earlier, reflecting both weaker domestic and overseas sales. In the first four months of the year the brand's global sales were down by 1.1% at 877,669 units from 886,994 a year earlier.

Domestic sales fell by 16% to 42,000 units last month from 50,004 units a year earlier and by 9.8% to 157,465 units in the first third of the year from 174,654 units a year earlier, mainly as the brand struggled to compete with new models from Hyundai. 

Overseas sales fell by 2.5% to 185,773 in April from 190,616 units a year earlier but were still up by 1% at 719,480 units year-to-date from 712,340 units previously, helped by a pick-up in sales in the US and Europe amid 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 1.7% to 39,242 units in April from 38,575 units a year earlier, reflecting a strong rebound in domestic sales which more than offset slightly weaker exports. Sales in the first four months of the year were still 3.3% lower at 153,661 units from 158,961 units in the same period of last year.

Domestic sales jumped by almost 20% to 6,433 units last month from 5,378 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 four months of the year were still almost 9% lower at 23,083 units from 25,298 units previously. The company plans to launch the Transverse SUV and the Colorado pickup truck later this year to help strengthen domestic sales further.

Exports declined by 1.2% to 32,809 units in April from 33,197 units a year earlier and by 2.3% to 130,578 units year-to-date from 133,663 in the same period of last year.

Renault-Samsung, which is 80%-owned by France's Renault, said its global sales continued to plunge in April - by over 40% to 13,720 vehicles from 23,096 units a year earlier - reflecting a sharp drop in exports and also weaker domestic sales. Sales in the first four months of the year were almost 40% lower at 52,930 units from 87,996 units in the same period of last year.

The company said sales and production last month were affected by an ongoing dispute with its labour union over wages and working conditions. 

Domestic sales fell by close to 11% to 6,175 units in April from 6,903 units a year earlier, while year-to-date sales were almost 14% lower at 22,812 units from 26,458 units. Exports plunged by over 53% to 7,545 units from 16,193 units a year earlier and by 51% to 30,118 units year-to-date from 61,538 units.

Ssangyong Motor, majority-owned by India's Mahindra & Mahindra, reported a more than 12% rise in global sales to 12,281 units in April from 10,930 units a year earlier, reflecting strong domestic sales which more than offset weaker exports. In the first four months of the year the brand's sales rose by over 10% to 45,908 units from 41,594 units in the same period of last year.

Domestic sales rose by over 26% to 10,275 units last month from 8,124 units a year earlier, driven by strong demand for the Rexton Sports SUV range and the recent launch of the updated Korando model. Year-to-date domestic sales were more than 17% higher at 37,625 units compared with 32,112 units previously.

Exports fell by over 13% to 2,438 units in April from 2,806 units a year earlier but were still 4.8% higher at 9,939 units year-to-date from 9,482 units.

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

Brands Domestic January 2019FebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneOverseas JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneGlobal JanuaryFebruaryMarchAprilMayJuneYTD Total
Hyundai 60,4405340670111714136775660987252,873259766319049297512289759317727313,3133131723891603689253575153787142120799
Kia38,0103322244233420004300042405170,898164425198384185773196059193824208,9081976472426172277732390592362291352233
GM Korea5,0535177642064336727578833,652275413657632809343333066338,7053271842996392424106036451231172
Renault-Samsung5,174492365406175n/a75648,519679872567545n/a1112213,693117211379613720125721868684188
Ssangyong8,78775791098410275n/a82192,633226226062438n/a215611,42094811359012713139941037571573
Total117,464104307138288136296n/a124963468,575460792563871526077n/a555492586,0395647397021596623736642006804553859965
Sources: www.AsiaMotorBusiness.com, industry sources