Automakers get into gear in the first month of 2014

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Automakers get into gear in the first month of 2014

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Korean automakers started the new year on a positive note with rising domestic sales, although their overall sales dropped slightly as a result of a dip in exports due to fewer business days.

According to data released by five local automakers (Hyundai, Kia, GM Korea, Ssangyong and Renault Samsung), 106,343 vehicles were sold in January in Korea, up 1.9 percent from a year ago.

Kia Motors was the only Korean automaker that didn’t see an increase in domestic sales after only 34,000 vehicles were sold in January, down 6.2 percent from a year earlier.

But Kia’s bigger affiliate, Hyundai Motor, pulled out of a stall and sold 51,525 units last month in Korea, a 2.6 percent year-on-year rise, thanks to sales of a new Genesis sedan and the Grandeur, which is known as the Azera overseas.

The second-generation Genesis sold 3,728 units last month, more than triple the number it had sold a year ago, while the full-size sedan Grandeur, which recently added a hybrid version, sold 8,134 units to become the best-selling car in January. Sales of Hyundai’s sport utility vehicles were also up 28.4 percent year-on-year.

“Although there were fewer business days due to the Lunar New Year holidays, our sales increased because of new models,” Hyundai said in a release. “We will be able to add more sales this year as new models like the Sonata comes on the market.”

Last year, Korean automakers sold 1.37 million vehicles on home turf, down 2.1 percent from 2012. The country’s top two automakers, Hyundai and Kia, were blamed for the decline. They were the only companies to see drops in domestic sales.

GM Korea, the nation’s third-largest automaker, increased its domestic sales by 8.4 percent year-on-year to 10,873 vehicles. It was the automaker’s best January since 2007 and its seventh consecutive month of year-over-year sales growth.

Sales of its Cruze compact jumped 65.4 percent year-on-year to 1,269 units, while the Captiva SUV rose 173.6 percent with 755 units to lead domestic sales.

Ssangyong Motor, which is owned-by India’s Mahindra & Mahindra, continued to rally its domestic sales after marking 34.9 percent year-on-year growth to sell 5,445 units, while Renault Samsung Motors, which in recent years has suffered a sales slump, rebounded with 16.9 percent year-on-year growth after selling 4,500 units.

However, despite solid sales in the home market, the combined overall sales dipped 2.1 percent year-on-year to 740,705 units last month because the car companies’ overseas sales dropped.

GM Korea, the Korean unit of U.S. automaker General Motors, posted particularly disappointing overseas sales of 42,733 units, which signified a 25.3 percent year-on-year drop.

Industry analysts said the company was hit hard by GM’s decision to pull the Chevrolet brand from Europe by 2015, which led to a sales decline.

Besides GM Korea, Hyundai and Kia posted small declines in overseas sales.

Both automakers blamed fewer business days due to the Lunar New Year holiday, which led to fewer exports.

Production from Hyundai’s domestic plant decreased 7.9 percent year-on-year, while Kia’s dropped 9.6 percent compared to a year ago.

Renault Samsung showed signs of recovery as its overseas sales improved 18.2 percent year-on-year to 2,198 units, thanks to the popularity of the SM3 compact and QM5 SUV.

Ssangyong’s overseas sales (excluding complete knock-down sales) increased 1.8 percent year-on-year to 6,117 units in January.


BY JOO KYUNG-DON [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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