SEOUL, April 17 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's automobile exports decreased 3.3 percent in March from a year earlier mainly due to a slump in Renault Samsung Motors Corp., currently plagued by a drawn-out labor dispute, government data showed Wednesday.
According to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, the country's five automakers, led by industry leader Hyundai Motor Co., shipped 213,736 cars overseas last month, with their value estimated at US$3.7 billion, also down 1.2 percent over the cited period.
But their combined shipments rose 2.4 percent on-year to 587,690 units in the January-March period, with the value of shipments also moving up 4.7 percent to $10.2 billion.
The ministry said among others, the suspended sales to sanction-imposed Iran and weak sales of the Nissan Rogue SUVs produced by Renault Samsung under an original equipment manufacturer contract weighed down last month's overall overseas shipments.
Renault Samsung Motors, which has suffered a series of on-and-off strikes in the past few weeks, saw its exports nose-dive 62.3 percent in March from a year earlier to 7,256 units, the data showed.
The exports of South Korea's No. 2 carmaker, Kia Motors Corp., fell 0.7 percent on-year last month as well despite robust sales of the K3 compact and the K5 midsize sedan due to decreased shipments of the Pride subcompact and the Morning.
Kia's bigger sister, Hyundai Motor, on the other hand, enjoyed a 4.4 percent increase in outbound shipments on strong overseas demand for SUVs, such as the Santa Fe and the Kona, the ministry data showed.
GM Korea Co. and SsangYong Motor Co. saw their vehicle exports move up 4.4 percent and 2.3 percent on-year, respectively, in the month.
By country, shipments to the United States moved up 7.5 percent on-year in March to $1.6 billion, followed by the European Union, which posted $753 million, down 15.2 percent over the cited period.
Shipments to the Middle East plunged 26 percent to $283 million in March from a year earlier, with Asian countries taking up $234 million, up 29 percent. Other European countries accounted for $275 million, up 3.1 percent.
South Korea's auto production, meanwhile, moved down 5.5 percent on-year to reach 343,327 units in March.
In terms of domestic sales, the figure decreased 5.7 percent to 156,927 units on the falling demand for imported vehicles.
Local sales of imported cars fell 28.4 percent to reach 19,774 units due to shortages of inventories from some of the brands.
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