By Choi Kyong-ae
SEOUL, June 1 (Yonhap) -- The combined sales of South Korea's five carmakers rose 5.2 percent last month from a year earlier due to recovering demand in major markets, corporate data showed Friday.
The five automakers -- Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp., GM Korea Co., Renault Samsung Motors Corp. and SsangYong Motor Co. -- sold a combined 704,111 vehicles in May, up from 669,033 units a year earlier, according to their monthly sales data.
Their domestic sales inched up 1.3 percent to 133,663 vehicles last month from 135,443 units a year ago. Overseas sales advanced 6.9 percent to 570,448 from 533,590 during the same period, the data showed.
Recovering demand in China and robust sales in emerging markets buoyed the monthly results at Hyundai and Kia, the companies said.
Their sales in China began to recover in April after staying weak until the first quarter due to the diplomatic row between Seoul and Beijing over the deployment of an advanced U.S. anti-missile system in South Korea.
In May, Hyundai's sales rose 5.7 percent to 387,017 vehicles from 366,256 units a year earlier. Kia's climbed 9 percent to 247,176 from 226,826 during the same period.
With protectionism in advanced markets and competition with rivals expected to remain major hurdles going forward, Hyundai plans to launch the all-new Santa Fe in the United States this summer to boost sales while Kia plans to roll out its new K3 compact in the U.S. later this year.
Hyundai and Kia, which together form the world's fifth-biggest carmaker, aim to reach a combined sales target of 7.55 million vehicles for 2018, slightly higher than the 7.25 million units they sold last year.
GM Korea, the South Korean unit of General Motors Co., posted a 5.1 percent on-year drop in May sales to 40,879 from 43,085. Its domestic sales plunged 35 percent to 7,670 from 11,854 during the cited period but exports rose 6.3 percent to 33,209 from 31,231.
On Thursday, GM shut down one of its four car assembly plants in Korea as part of global restructuring efforts. From 2014-2017, GM Korea posted 3.134 trillion won in accumulated net losses due to a lack of new models and weaker demand.
GM said it will allocate two new vehicles to its Korean plants and maintain its Korean operations for more than 10 years. But it remains to be seen whether the sale of GM vehicles will be strong enough to turn the loss-making carmaker around in the coming years.
Renault Samsung's sales plunged 22 percent on-year to 16,101 from 20,517 on lower demand for most of its vehicles. Even exports of Nissan Motor Corp.'s Rogue SUV, which is assembled in the carmaker's sole Busan plant, 450 kilometers south of Seoul, fell 28 percent. Renault S.A. owns an 80 percent stake in Renault Samsung.
SsangYong Motor, meanwhile, reported selling 12,920 vehicles last month, up 4.6 percent from 12,349 units sold a year ago on strong exports. The company is 72.85 percent owned by Indian carmaker Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd.
Exports of the G4 Rexton SUV posted explosive growth, with sales soaring to 739 last month from 11 a year earlier. Shipments of the Tivoli and Korando Sports SUV also increased, pushing up the carmaker's overall numbers.
In the January-May period, the combined sales of the five automakers inched down 1.3 percent to 3.32 million vehicles from 3.28 million a year ago, the latest data showed.
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