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[Korean auto sales down 1.7% in Jan.]

Feb. 1, 2012 - 20:58 By Korea Herald
Korea’s five automakers led by market leader Hyundai Motor Co. on Wednesday reported a 1.7 percent drop in January sales due to a slump in domestic demand.

The combined sales of the carmakers came to 617,506 vehicles in January, compared with 626,806 units sold a year earlier, according to data released by the companies.

Their domestic shipments reached a combined 96,448 units last month, down 20 percent from 120,557 a year earlier. Overseas sales, however, including cars exported from South Korea and vehicles assembled at foreign plants, inched up 2.9 percent on-year to 521,058 from 506,229.

The automakers also include Kia Motors Corp., GM Korea, Renault Samsung Motors Co., and Ssangyong Motor Co.

Contracted domestic demand led the decline in January, as all five carmakers witnessed sharp drops in their domestic sales.

Leading carmaker Hyundai Motor sold 45,186 vehicles last month, down 18.6 percent from a year earlier, despite the steady popularity of its mid-size sedan Sonata.

“Our sales for the first month of this year fell as January had fewer business days due to the Lunar New Year holiday,” said Hyundai Motor in a statement.

The No. 2 player Kia Motors also suffered a sharp decrease in domestic sales in January, falling to a nearly two-year low of 34,210 vehicles.

The company said it will expand exports to make up the sales drop in the domestic market, as the South Korean automobile market is forecast to contract 1.1 percent this year. (Yonhap News)

GM Korea said its domestic sales tumbled 19.6 percent on-year to 8,041 vehicles last month, hit by bad economic conditions stemming from the European debt crisis. The carmaker said it will make more efforts to strengthen marketing and fuel exports.

Renault Samsung was the biggest loser last month, with its domestic sales nosediving 39.4 percent on-year to 14,440 cars.

“Our sales dropped in January due to the Lunar New Year holiday,” said a company executive. “We will redouble our marketing efforts to increase sales.”

Ssangyoung Motor, the smallest carmaker in South Korea, also reported a 1.8 percent drop in the domestic market last month, with 2,804 vehicles sold. The company said its new sports utility vehicle Korando Sports released early last month prevented a greater sales decrease.

Market watchers said the Korean automakers did well abroad to make up the losses from the poor domestic sales record. 

(Yonhap News)