Five S. Korean carmakers’ sales fall 3.1 pct on weak demand

SEOUL-- South Korea's five carmakers said Tuesday their combined sales fell 3.1 percent last month from a year earlier mainly due to weak overseas demand.

The five automakers -- Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp., GM Korea Co., Renault Samsung Motors Corp. and SsangYong Motor Co. -- sold a total of 625,412 vehicles in July, down from 645,705 units a year earlier, according to corporate data.

Their domestic sales rose 7.8 percent to 130,611 cars last month from the previous year's 121,144 units. But overseas sales dropped 5.7 percent to 494,801 from 524,561 during the same period, the latest numbers showed.

Lower demand from China, the world's biggest automobile market, was still a major hit for the carmakers, except for Renault Samsung Motor which focused on sales in Europe.

Hyundai and Kia, which together form the world's fifth-largest carmaker by sales, suffered the most in vehicle sales in China.

The two carmakers saw their sales there plunge 42 percent and 55 percent, respectively, to 301,277 units and 129,670 in the January-June period.

Seoul and Beijing have been at odds over the deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system called THAAD in South Korea, which China objects to due to military reasons. Local campaigns against South Korean products affected sales of Hyundai and Kia vehicles in China.

In July, Hyundai sold a total of 333,180 cars, down 1.8 percent from a year earlier. Sales in its sister company Kia Motors fell 5.6 percent year-over-year to 216,118 last month, the companies said.

To help revive sluggish sales, they plan to launch new models such as the subcompact Kona and Stonic SUVs, mainly in Europe, later this year.

Experts say the companies need to launch new, competitive crossovers to boost sales in the European and U.S. markets where SUV makers are benefiting from low gas prices and growing demand for recreational vehicles.

GM Korea's sales fell 9.9 percent from a year earlier to 41,406 autos last month. SsangYong Motor's declined 11 percent year-on-year to 11,413 units.

Renault Samsung, however, said its sales advanced last month. Exports jumped 38 percent on-year to 15,368 and domestic sales also gained 7.8 percent at 7,927.

Exports of the SM6 flagship sedan reached 870 units last month compared to just 10 a year earlier. Shipments of the QM6 SUV, which is sold as Renault Koleos in overseas markets, shot up to 2,860 from 478 during the cited period, Renault Samsung said.

From January to July, the five automakers sold a combined 4.63 million autos, down 7.5 percent from 5.00 million units tallied a year earlier, the data showed.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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