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Korea, Germany vie to be world’s No. 4 carmaker

May 29, 2011 - 19:15 By 김연세
Seoul is projected to capture 11% of the world’s auto production market within four years

Korea has been striving to become one of the world’s four largest automakers, though the nation ranked fifth for six consecutive years between 2005 and 2010.

Though Korea grabbed fourth place in the global auto manufacturing ranking in 1997, it suffered difficulties in the wake of the 1997-98 financial crisis.

Now the automotive market is focusing on catching up with Germany in production.

Korea produced a yearly record high of about 4.27 million units in 2010, accounting for 5.5 percent of global production, according to the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association.

The association reported that Germany ranked fourth with auto production of about 5.9 million units, buoyed by brisk exports.

Local dealers predict there is a possibility that Germany will be overtaken by Korea in two or three years, citing the higher growth rate posted by the latter.

Five years ago, Germany posted a similar level with 5.75 million units while Korea saw 3.69 million units. Korea ranked sixth in 2004.
A line of Audi AG automobiles on display during the company’s annual general meeting in Neckarsulm, Germany. (Bloomberg)

Korea’s commerce-related ministries have already set a target of becoming the world’s fourth-largest automaker by 2015.

Policymakers have a mid-term goal of increasing annual automobile production to 7.6 million vehicles per annum by 2015.

Korea is projected to capture 11 percent of the world’s auto production market within four years, according to officials in relevant ministries and the Federation of Korean Industries.

For a successful project, the government is also actively enhancing the development of eco-friendly vehicles to infiltrate the global market.

The government will also call for domestic auto parts producers, including Hyundai Mobis, the de factor holding firm of Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors, to secure overseas markets.
Hyundai Motor Co. vehicles bound for export at a port near the company’s plant in Ulsan. (Bloomberg)

In 2010 China, the world’s largest market for automobiles, became the world’s largest producer for the second consecutive year by churning out more than 18.26 million units, a 32.4 percent spike from 2009.

Japan followed with about 9.62 million vehicles, and the U.S. was next with 7.73 million units that represented a 35 percent increase from the previous year.

The combined global production of automobiles jumped 23.4 percent on-year to over 77 million units in 2010.

The proportion of Korean vehicles in the global market, however, edged down from 5.6 percent in 2009 as those of China gained 1.2 percentage points to 23.7 percent from a year earlier and the United States by 1.7 percentage points to 10 percent.

Production by the United States jumped 35 percent from a year earlier to about 7.74 million vehicles on the recovery of its economy, normalization of its big three automakers ― GM, Ford and Chrysler ― and opening of their new plants.

With the growing scale of Korea’s car manufacturing market, the nation’s leading automaker Hyundai Motor and its affiliate Kia Motors is approaching its largest-ever marketplace share in the U.S. amid setbacks suffered by rivals in quake-hit Japan

According to, an automotive solutions and data provider, the amalgamated sales of Hyundai and Kia are predicted to reach 115,434 this month, up 43.4 percent from a year earlier.

The rise in sales will put their amalgamated marketplace share at 10.9 percent, compared with General Motors at 21.3 percent marketplace share and Ford Motor with 17.8 percent.

Toyota’s U.S. marketplace share is thought to have dropped 10.3 percent in May from 14.8 percent a year earlier. Honda, meanwhile, is predicted to have declined from 10.6 percent to 8.8 percent.

Hyundai and Kia are flagships of the world’s fifth-largest automotive organization Hyundai Motor Group that has 70 other affiliates, including South Korea’s leading vehicle tools maker Hyundai Mobis.

Their amalgamated marketplace share in the U.S. in May 2010 was 7.3 percent, the seventh-largest after those of Japan’s Toyota, Honda and Nissan.

The speed up in sales of Hyundai and Kia is thought to be related to considerable setbacks among their Japanese competitors., however, said Japanese manufacturers would make a return sooner than expected.

“Inventory constraints at last strike the Japanese automakers this month, but the liberation in supply appears quicker than initial anticipated,” it said.

By Kim Yon-se (