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Carmakers' Feb. sales rise 4.8 pct on SUVs

SEOUL, March 2 (Yonhap) — South Korean carmakers’ sales rose 4.8 percent last month from a year earlier helped by strong demand for SUVs amid the COVID-19 pandemic, industry data showed Tuesday.

The five carmakers in South Korea — Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Corp., GM Korea Co., Renault Samsung Motors Corp. and SsangYong Motor Co. — sold a combined 544,823 vehicles in February, up from 520,095 units a year ago, according to data from the companies.

Their domestic sales jumped 24 percent to 101,356 units in February from 81,722 a year ago. Overseas sales also climbed 1.2 percent to 443,467 from 438,373 during the same period, the data showed.

Hyundai and its affiliate Kia saw their robust domestic sales prop up the monthly sales results.

In February, Hyundai’s sales rose 6.7 percent to 300,248 units from 281,363 a year ago, and Kia’s climbed 7 percent to 210,177 from 196,408 during the same period.

Robust local sales of Hyundai’s Palisade, Tucson and Santa Fe SUVs and Kia’s Sportage and Seltos SUVs allowed them to offset weak overseas sales last month.

Strong local sales of the GV70 and GV80 SUVs under Hyundai’s independent Genesis brand also buoyed Hyundai’s sales results last month.

This year, Hyundai and Kia said they will continue to focus on promoting their SUV models, including Hyundai’s all-electric IONIQ 5 crossover utility vehicle, to ride out the virus crisis in global markets.

The carmakers 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.

GM Korea and SsangYong Motor said their sales fell last month due to weak exports. But Renault Samsung said its sales rose on robust demand for the XM3 compact SUV.

GM Korea’s sales fell 14 percent to 24,265 units last month from 28,126, and SsangYong Motor’s plunged 61 percent to 2,789 from 7,141 during the same period.

SsangYong’s Indian parent Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. is in the process of selling its controlling stake in SsangYong as part of its global reorganization plans amid the extended pandemic.

The SUV-focused carmaker filed for court receivership on Dec. 21 after it failed to obtain approval for the rollover of existing loans from its creditors.

Renault Samsung’s sales rose 4.1 percent to 7,344 autos last month from 7,057 during the cited period.

From January to February, the five carmakers’ combined sales rose 4.8 percent to 1.14 million units from 1.09 million in the year-ago period.

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