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SEOUL, April 19 (Yonhap) -- Hyundai Motor Group's first-quarter sales in China have continuously to fall over the past five years, reeling from the aftermath of a diplomatic row and increasingly competitive alternatives from Chinese automakers, company data showed Friday.
In the January-March quarter, Hyundai Motor Co. and its affiliate Kia Motors Corp. sold a combined 213,057 vehicles in the world's biggest automobile market, extending their slump since 2015.
The sales figure represents a sharp drop from 440,514 units in the first quarter of 2015, according to their sales data.
Hyundai and Kia vehicles have been struggling with weak sales in China as they responded late to rising demand for sport-utility vehicles. They also face tougher competition with local rivals which offer relatively good models at lower prices.
Dealing a further blow to the carmakers, a diplomatic row between Seoul and Beijing over the deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system, called THAAD, in South Korea in 2017, drove down their sales in China.
Hyundai and Kia, which together form the world's fifth-biggest carmaker by sales, saw their annual sales in China plunge 36 percent to 1,145,012 units in 2017 from 1,792,021 a year earlier.
The carmakers' slump continued last year with growth in their sales nearly stalled at 1,160,179 autos in the neighboring country.
As a result, Hyundai said earlier it plans to stop production at its No. 1 plant in Beijing later this month as its utilization rate recently fell to below 50 percent.
South Korea's biggest carmaker has three plants in Beijing -- one in Changzhou and another in Chongqing -- whose combined capacity reaches 1.65 million vehicles.
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