By Choi Kyong-ae
SEOUL, May 2 (Yonhap) -- Vehicle sales of South Korea's five carmakers fell 6 percent last month from a year earlier due to weak overseas demand, corporate data showed Thursday.
The five carmakers -- Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp., GM Korea Co., Renault Samsung Motors Corp. and SsangYong Motor Co. -- sold a combined 662,373 vehicles in April, down from 705,004 units a year ago, according to their respective sales data.
The companies blamed lower demand in major markets, such as China, for their lackluster sales results last month. They didn't expect any strong upward momentum in the market with the trade dispute between the United States and China under way.
Domestic sales rose 1.6 percent to 136,296 units last month from 134,197 a year ago, but overseas sales declined 7.8 percent to 526,077 from 570,807 during the same period, the data revealed.
Hyundai and Kia, the country's two biggest carmakers, didn't report any significant rebound in sales last month due to low demand in the United States, China and emerging markets.
Hyundai's sales fell 5.4 percent to 368,925 units last month from 391,783 a year ago.
Robust sales of the all-new Santa Fe and the Palisade SUVs in the domestic market didn't give a major boost to the monthly sales results.
Sales of its 34 percent-owned affiliate Kia fell 5.3 percent to 27,773 autos from 240,620 a year ago.
This year, Hyundai and Kia said they will focus more on reviving sales in the U.S. and China, the world's two biggest automobile markets, by launching new SUV models.
In particular, Hyundai Motor expects the flagship Palisade SUV and the all-new Sonata sedan, set to be launched in the U.S. later this year, to help buoy sales.
Early this year, Kia began to sell the Telluride SUV, a model designed only for North American markets, in the U.S. It has received a strong response from local customers.
But a slowing global economy and the trade dispute between the U.S. and China remain major woes for car manufacturers.
The two carmakers have set a conservative target of 7.55 million vehicles for 2019, a little higher than the 7.4 million units they sold last year.
They have been struggling with a decline in sales in the U.S. and China as they were not quick 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.
SsangYong Motor and GM Korea saw their sales improve last month, helped by SUV sales.
SsangYong Motor's sales rose 12 percent on-year to 12,281 units last month from 10,930 backed by strong sales of the Korando and Rexton Sports SUV models. GM Korea's sales gained 1.7 percent to 39,242 from 38,575 also helped by increased sales of the Trax compact and Equinox midsize SUVs.
But Renault Samsung did not show any signs of a recovery in sales. Its sales plunged 41 percent on-year to 13,720 from 23,096 due to lack of new models. A months-long dispute with its union over wages and working hours already caused production losses of over 14,000 vehicles.
In the January-April period, the five firms' overall sales fell 3.6 percent to 2,522,126 vehicles from 2,616,717 in the year-ago period, the data showed.
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