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Auto sales slightly down in July amid chip shortage

By Choi Kyong-ae

SEOUL, Aug. 2 (Yonhap) — South Korean carmakers’ sales fell slightly last month from a year earlier as a global chip shortage and the extended COVID-19 pandemic affected their vehicle production and sales, industry data showed Monday.

The country’s five carmakers — Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Corp., GM Korea Co., Renault Samsung Motors Corp. and SsangYong Motor Co. — sold a combined 589,703 vehicles in July, down 0.2 percent from 590,566 units a year ago, according to data from the companies.

Their domestic sales fell 14 percent to 123,512 units last month from 144,422 a year ago. But overseas sales rose 4.5 percent to 466,191 from 446,144 during the same period, the data showed.

Hyundai and its affiliate Kia fared better than their smaller rivals last month, with their robust overseas sales helping offset disrupted production and sales amid chip shortages in the domestic market.

In July, Hyundai’s sales fell 2.4 percent to 309,901 units from 317,403 a year ago, though its overseas sales rose 4.2 percent on-year to 250,045 units.

Kia’s climbed 8.7 percent to 241,399 units from 222,119 during the same period, with its overseas sales jumping 10 percent to 193,239.

The monthly results were backed largely by strong overseas demand for Hyundai’s Palisade, Tucson and Santa Fe SUVs and Kia’s Sportage and Seltos SUVs.

Early last month, Hyundai said it will suspend the Asan plant from July 13 until Aug. 6 “to upgrade the facilities before it begins production of the IONIQ 6 midsize sedan later this year.”

The 300,000-unit-a-year Asan plant produces the Sonata sedan and the Santa Fe SUV.

This year, Hyundai and Kia said they will continue to focus on promoting their new models, including Hyundai’s all-electric IONIQ 5 crossover utility vehicle and Kia’s K8 sedan and all-electric EV6 model, to ride out the pandemic.

They 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 a sharp decline in domestic sales last month due to lack of new models and tougher competition with their bigger rivals.

Increased exports at SsangYong Motor and Renault Samsung did not help drive up their overall results last month. GM Korea was the worst performer in domestic sales and exports.

SsangYong’s domestic sales fell 16 percent on-year to 5,652 autos last month from 6,702, while exports more than tripled to 2,443 from 757 during the cited period.

Renault Samsung’s local sales declined 21 percent to 4,958 from 6,301, while exports more than doubled to 6,075 from 2,622.

But GM Korea’s local sales dropped 30 percent to 4,886 from 6,988 and exports plunged 48 percent to 14,329 from 27,644.

From January to July, the five automakers’ combined sales rose 18 percent to 4.32 million units from 3.65 million in the year-ago period.

Their domestic sales fell 7.2 percent to 876,616 autos in the first seven months from 944,511 in the year-ago period, while overseas sales jumped 27 percent to 3.44 million from 2.7 million.

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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