S. Korea’s five carmakers’ sales fall 14 pct on weak demand

SEOUL-- South Korea's five carmakers said Monday their combined sales fell 14 percent last month from a year earlier as overseas vehicle demand remained weak.

The five automakers -- Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp., GM Korea Co., Renault Samsung Motors Corp. and SsangYong Motor Co. -- sold a total of 691,683 vehicles in June, down from 805,495 units a year earlier, according to data released by the companies.

Their overseas sales plunged 14 percent to 551,841 units last month from the previous year's 644,433 units. Domestic sales declined 13 percent to 139,842 from 161,062, the data 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-biggest carmaker by sales, suffered the most in vehicle sales in China.

Hyundai and Kia saw their sales there plunge 37 percent and 54 percent, respectively, to 266,228 units and 110,667 units in the January-May period. They expected to see weak sales results for June later this month as the diplomatic row has yet to be resolved.

Seoul and Beijing have been at odds over the deployment of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) system in South Korea. China has opposed the THAAD installation here, claiming the powerful X-band radar that comes with the system could spy on its military. Seoul has maintained that the anti-missile system is aimed at countering missile threats from North Korea.

In apparent retaliation against the THAAD deployment, however, China has taken measures against travel packages to South Korea and other products, affecting Korean vehicles sales in the neighboring country.

Hyundai posted a 16-percent on-year decline in sales last month to 376,109 units, with sales in Kia down 13 percent to 232,370 units during the same period.

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

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

GM Korea's sales fell 21 percent from a year earlier to 43,692 autos last month. SsangYong Motor's fell 10 percent year-over-year to 12,697 units.

Renault Samsung, however, said its sales gained last month. Exports jumped 43 percent year-on-year to 17,815, offsetting a 17-percent on-year decline in domestic sales with just 9,000 units sold.

Exports of the SM6 sedan soared to 1,237 last month compared to just 13 a year earlier, Renault Samsung said.

In the January-June period, the five companies sold a combined 4 million autos, down 8.1 percent from 4.36 million units a year earlier. Their overall domestic sales declined 4 percent to 779,685 and exports were down 9.1 percent to 3.22 million during the cited period.

Source: Yonhap News Agency

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