SEOUL, Jan. 2 (Yonhap) -- Vehicle sales of South Korea's five carmakers rose 0.7 percent in December from a year earlier on modest improvement in domestic demand, corporate data showed Wednesday.
The five carmakers -- Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp., GM Korea Co., Renault Samsung Motors Corp. and SsangYong Motor Co. -- sold a combined 726,588 vehicles last month, compared with 721,701 units sold a year ago, according to their sales data.
The overall sales figure was held back by weak overseas demand for locally-made vehicles in major markets, such as China and the United States.
Domestic sales climbed 4.99 percent to 138,924 vehicles last month from 132,315 units a year ago. But overseas sales backtracked 0.29 percent to 587,664 autos from 589,386 during the cited period, the data showed.
Hyundai's sales gained 0.4 percent to 410,326 units last month from 408,637 a year ago. Sales of its 34 percent-owned affiliate Kia also climbed 6.3 percent to 241,199 from 226,875 during the same period.
To boost sales, the two carmakers said they will put a bigger focus on reviving sales in the U.S. and China by launching 13 new or facelifted models in global markets this year.
They struggled with sluggish sales in the world's two biggest auto markets throughout last year due mainly to lack of competitive sport-utility vehicle models.
The ongoing trade war between the so-called G-2 economies and slowing global economy remain major hurdles for Hyundai and Kia, which together form the world's fifth-biggest carmaker by sales.
The two carmakers have set a conservative target of 7.55 million vehicles for 2019 after missing their target of 7.55 million units for 2018. They sold 7.4 million units last year. They cited the ongoing trade war between the U.S. and China and slowing global economy as major challenges ahead.
Hyundai launched the all-new Santa Fe sport utility vehicle and the face-lifted Tucson SUV in the U.S. last year. Kia introduced the new K3 compact in the U.S. But the models didn't buoy overall sales as expected.
This year, Hyundai and Kia plan to launch the Palisade flagship SUV and the upgraded Soul boxcar in the U.S. and other markets to stimulate sales.
Weak outbound shipments weighed on the overall sales of three other carmakers last month.
GM Korea, the South Korean unit of General Motors Co., reported a 6.7 percent on-year decline in December sales to 42,424 autos from 45,466 a year ago.
GM Korea launched the U.S.-made Equinox SUV and the upgraded Chevy Spark minicar in June last year, but they didn't help boost sales in the past seven months.
The GM unit plans to introduce 15 vehicles, including the U.S.-made Equinox SUV launched last year, in the local market over the next five years.
Renault Samsung's sales plunged 54 percent to 7,657 from 16,562 during the same period. SsangYong Motor's sales fell 0.2 percent to 14.177 units last month from 14,208 a year ago.
For the whole of 2018, the five firms' sales gained 0.4 percent to 8.23 million vehicles from 8.2 million in the year-ago period, the latest data showed.
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