Even with strong won, auto exports rise 23%

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Even with strong won, auto exports rise 23%

Despite worries about the weakening yen and a strong won, exports of Korean automobiles and parts in January increased 23.1 percent from a year ago, according to data from the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association and Ministry of Knowledge Economy.

Kama said yesterday that Korea’s auto-related exports were $6.39 billion last month, beating oil products ($4.93 billion), petrochemicals ($4.21 billion), and semiconductors ($4.01 billion) to claim the No. 1 lucrative local industry.

Exports from automakers were $4.27 billion, up 24.3 percent from a year ago, while auto parts companies exported $2.12 billion, up 20.8 percent, despite a weak global economy and Japan’s government’s move to weaken the yen.

The five local auto manufacturers shipped a total of 288,344 units last month, up 17.1 percent from a year earlier. Kama said that enhanced brand value and rising popularity of fuel-efficient small cars led to the growth in exports.

Among the top 10 exported models, seven were compacts or city cars. Kia Motors’ Pride, a compact sedan, became the No. 1 exported model for the first time since September, after 27,020 units were shipped last month.

But Kama said sales of luxury cars also were a big part of the story.

Hyundai Motor, the nation’s largest automaker, said yesterday that sales of its luxury sedans reached a monthly high in January in the United States.

According to the automaker, it sold 1,544 units of the Genesis sedan, followed by the Genesis coupe at 928 units. The Equus, Hyundai’s flagship full-size sedan, sold 797 units last month.

Hyundai said luxury sedans represented 8.1 percent of its total monthly sales of 43,713 vehicles in the U.S. last month.

The American auto market remains the largest export market for Korean automakers.

According to Kama, shipments to the U.S. accounted for 21.9 percent of total auto shipments last year. Although local automakers are increasing production from their U.S. plants, Kama said that Korea-U.S. free trade agreement and enhanced product quality from Korean plants contribute to increased shipments. Automobile exports to the U.S. were 693,736 units last year, up 17.9 percent from 2011, Kama said.

However, exports to Europe declined 1.7 percent as Euro zone crisis suppressed demand. Auto exports to European Union regions were 681,797 units in 2012.

Kama said exports to the Middle East and South America also fell last year.

Despite rising popularity of Korean cars in Saudi Arabia, weakened demand from Iran and Syria caused a 1.9 percent on-year slump in Middle East exports, Kama said.

In South America, shipments to Brazil declined 52.4 percent as the country recently raised taxes. Kama said the tax hike in the continent’s largest auto market led to 12.5 percent slump in exports to South America.

However, Kama said that exports to Africa increased 9.3 percent to 196,776 units in 2012, thanks to rising popularity in Algeria and Libya.

By Joo Kyung-don [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]
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