Carmakers’ Aug. sales fall 11 pct on pandemic

SEOUL, Sept. 1 (Yonhap) — South Korean carmakers’ vehicle sales fell 11 percent last month from a year earlier as the new coronavirus outbreak continued to affect consumer sentiment, industry data showed Tuesday.

The five carmakers in South Korea — Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp., GM Korea Co., Renault Samsung Motors Corp. and SsangYong Motor Co. — sold a combined 573,279 vehicles in August, down from 640,850 units a year ago, according to data from the companies.

A reduction in a special excise tax on purchases of passenger cars and decreased overseas demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic drove down their monthly sales results, the companies said.

The five carmakers’ domestic sales fell 5.6 percent to 111,847 units in August from 118,479 a year ago.

Their overseas sales declined 12 percent to 461,432 from 522,371 during the same period, with the pandemic showing no signs of slowdown, particularly in advanced countries such as the United States.

In August, Hyundai’s sales fell 14 percent to 312,990 autos from 364,590, while Kia’s dropped 5.2 percent to 216,945 from 228,741 during the same period.

Hyundai and Kia, the country’s two biggest carmakers, suspended operations of their major overseas plants until late May, and overseas parent firms of the three other carmakers reduced production to control inventories amid the pandemic.

Production at the five carmakers’ plants has fallen short of the levels before the coronavirus hit the automobile industry early this year.

Hyundai and Kia said they will continue to make efforts to minimize the negative impact of the coronavirus on vehicle sales in global markets while focusing on securing stable sales networks despite the virus.

Given the carmakers sold a total of 3,841,524 units in the January-August period, they look set to miss their sales target of 7.54 million cars for this year.

The two carmakers had planned to focus on boosting sales in the U.S. market this year to offset sluggish demand in China, the world’s biggest automobile market.

They originally planned to launch Hyundai’s Tucson sport utility vehicle, the Genesis GV80 SUV and G80 sedan and Kia’s Sportage SUV in the U.S. later this year, but they are still awaiting shipment to the U.S. due to the pandemic.

Renault Samsung and SsangYong Motor also performed poorly amid the virus crisis.

Renault Samsung’s sales plunged 42 percent to 7,570 units last month from 12,987 a year earlier. SsangYong Motor’s declined 20 percent to 8,027 from 10,015 during the same period.

To revive sales, Renault Samsung has yet to secure export volume for the XM3 compact SUV from its French parent Renault S.A. to replace the now-suspended output volume of Nissan Motor Co.’s Rogue SUV at its sole plant in Busan, 450 kilometers south of Seoul.

Renault Samsung used to produce about 100,000 Rogues a year for export under a manufacturing contract with Nissan. But the production stopped in March, as Nissan cut the output allocation to the plant, citing output losses caused by labor strikes.

SsangYong’s Indian parent Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.’s recent decision not to invest in the Korean unit dealt a bigger blow to the SUV-focused carmaker’s sales.

In contrast, GM Korea reported an increase in sales last month.

GM Korea’s sales rose 13 percent in August to 27,747 from 24,517 a year ago helped by increased exports of the Trailblazer sport utility vehicle.

From January to August, the five carmakers sold a total of 4,219,034 autos, down 18 percent from 5,150,052 in the same period of last year.