SEOUL, April 1 (Yonhap) — South Korean carmakers’ sales rose 12 percent last month from a year earlier helped by robust overseas demand for SUVs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, industry data showed Thursday.
The five carmakers — Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Corp., GM Korea Co., Renault Samsung Motors Corp. and SsangYong Motor Co. — sold a combined 672,643 vehicles in March, up from 601,082 units a year ago, according to data from the companies.
Their domestic sales fell 6.7 percent to 140,971 units last month from 151,025 a year ago. But overseas sales climbed 18 percent to 531,672 from 450,057 during the same period, the data showed.
Hyundai and its affiliate Kia saw their strong overseas sales help prop up the monthly performance.
In March, Hyundai’s sales jumped 22 percent to 375,924 units from 307,176 a year ago, and Kia’s climbed 8.6 percent to 251,362 from 231,543 over the cited period.
“Hyundai and Kia reported increased sales in March due to a base effect as their sales were affected by disrupted productions and sales following the outbreak of COVID-19 virus in the same month of last year,” the companies said in their statements.
The monthly results were helped by strong overseas demand for Hyundai’s Palisade, Tucson and Santa Fe SUVs and Kia’s Sportage and Sorento SUVs.
Brisk sales of the GV70 and GV80 SUVs under Hyundai’s independent Genesis brand at home also buoyed Hyundai’s sales results last month.
This year, Hyundai and Kia said they will continue to focus on promoting their SUV models, including Hyundai’s all-electric IONIQ 5 crossover utility vehicle, to ride out the virus crisis in global markets.
The carmakers aim to sell a combined 7.08 million vehicles this year, 1.7 percent lower than the 7.2 million units they sold last year.
Three other carmakers suffered declines in their March sales amid the prolonged pandemic.
Renault Samsung Motors Corp. reported a 43 percent on-year drop in sales at 8,572 autos last month from 15,100 due to lack of new models.
GM Korea’s sales declined 22 percent to 29,633 units last month from 37,918 a year ago, while SsangYong’s were down 24 percent to 7,122 from 9,345 over the cited period.
SsangYong’s Indian parent Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. is in the process of selling its controlling stake in SsangYong as part of its global reorganization plans.
The SUV-focused carmaker filed for court receivership on Dec. 21 after it failed to obtain approval for the rollover of existing loans from its creditors.
From January to March, the five carmakers’ combined sales rose 7.4 percent to 1.82 million units from 1.69 million in the year-ago period.
The global semiconductor chip shortage is expected to affect carmakers’ vehicle production in the second quarter and their sales.
Carmakers are readjusting their vehicle production volumes while competing with electronics companies to get more chips to minimize output reduction.
Hyundai Motor plans to suspend production at its No. 1 plant in Ulsan, 414 kilometers southeast of Seoul, from April 7-14 due to parts shortages.