SEOUL, April 1 (Yonhap) -- Vehicle sales of South Korea's five carmakers fell 2.5 percent last month from a year earlier on weak overseas demand, corporate data showed Monday.
The five carmakers -- Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp., GM Korea Co., Renault Samsung Motors Corp. and SsangYong Motor Co. -- sold a combined 702,159 vehicles in March, down from 720,043 units a year ago, according to their sales data.
The overall sales figure was affected by continuing sluggish demand in overseas markets, such as China and emerging markets, amid a slowdown in growth.
Domestic sales inched down 0.82 percent to 138,288 units last month from 139,432 units a year ago. Overseas sales dropped 2.88 percent to 563,871 from 580,611 during the same period, the data revealed.
Hyundai's sales fell 2.2 percent to 389,160 units last month from 397,747 a year ago as overseas demand for its vehicles failed to improve in China and other emerging markets.
The maker of the Sonata sedan said the planned launch of the Palisade sport utility vehicle in the United States this year is expected to give a boost to sales. Domestic sales of the all-new Santa Fe and the Palisade SUVs were strong last month.
Sales of its 34 percent-owned affiliate Kia remained virtually unchanged at 242,617 autos compared to 242,608 the previous year.
This year, the two carmakers said they will focus more on reviving sales in the U.S. and China, the world's two most important automobile markets, by launching their new SUV models, including Kia's Telluride SUV.
But it remains to be seen whether the U.S. and China will come up with a major breakthrough in their trade talks due to take place this week in Washington.
The two carmakers have set a conservative target of 7.55 million vehicles for 2019 after missing their sales goal for 2018. They sold 7.4 million units last year.
They have been struggling with a decline in sales in the world's two biggest markets following a failure to recognize consumers' growing appetite for SUVs.
Hyundai launched the all-new Santa Fe SUV 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.
Hyundai plans to launch the Palisade flagship SUV in the U.S. to stimulate sales this year, while Kia has already begun to sell the Telluride SUV in the U.S.
SsangYong Motor and GM Korea saw their sales improve last month, helped by SUV sales.
SsangYong Motor posted a 16 percent on-year increase in March sales -- at 13,158 units, up from 11,369 -- backed by strong sales of the Rexton Sports and the Rexton Sports Khan SUV models.
GM Korea reported a 4.2 percent on-year gain in sales last month -- selling 42,996 vehicles, up from 41,260 -- on increased sales of the Trax compact and Equinox midsize SUVs.
But Renault Samsung's sales plunged 49 percent on-year to 13,796 last month from 27,059 due to a lack of new models.
In the January-March quarter, the five firms' overall sales fell 2.76 percent to 1,858,997 vehicles from 1,911,713 units in the same period a year ago.
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