By Choi Kyong-ae
SEOUL, Oct. 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korean vehicle sales fell 2.3 percent last month from a year earlier amid a global economic slowdown, industry data showed Tuesday.
The country's five carmakers -- Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp., GM Korea Co., Renault Samsung Motors Corp. and SsangYong Motor Co. -- sold a combined 662,949 vehicles in September, compared with 678,229 units sold a year earlier, according to the companies' monthly sales data.
Their lackluster sales were mainly due to lower demand in China and emerging markets and uncertainties surrounding a yearlong trade battle between the United States and China -- the world's two biggest automobile markets.
Domestic sales rose 2.1 percent to 112,407 units last month from 110,130 a year ago, but overseas sales declined 3.1 percent to 550,542 units from 568,099 over the cited period, the data said.
Hyundai and Kia, the country's two biggest carmakers, reported no significant rebound in sales last month.
Looking ahead, they said a slowing global economy and an escalating trade war between Washington and Beijing will further add uncertainties to their businesses during the remainder of the year.
Hyundai's sales fell 1.3 percent to 382,375 units last month from 387,476 a year earlier, but sales at its sister company, Kia, inched up 1.3 percent to 233,648 from 230,556 during the same period.
Hyundai, the maker of the Sonata sedan and the Santa Fe sport utility vehicle, expects its Palisade SUV, which has been available in U.S. dealerships since this summer, to help boost sales in the second half.
Kia, which is 34 percent owned by Hyundai, expects the Telluride SUV will give a boost to its annual sales. The Telluride is manufactured in Kia's U.S. plant and sold in North American markets only.
The two, which aim to achieve their sales target of 7.55 million vehicles for this year, sold a combined 5.27 million units from January to September, down 3 percent from 5.44 million units in the year-ago period, the data showed.
Hyundai and Kia said they will continue to launch more localized models in China, though demand in the world's largest automobile market is expected to remain weak for the rest of the year.
Renault Samsung posted a gain in September sales, but sales in SsangYong Motor and GM Korea declined last month.
Renault Samsung's sales rose 4.3 percent to 15,208 units in September from 14,582 a year ago. SsangYong Motor's sales fell 1.8 percent to 10,325 from 10,511.
GM Korea posted the biggest plunge in September sales as its workers held several rounds of strikes, resulting in output losses of over 10,000 vehicles. Its sales plunged 39 percent last month to 21,393 from 34,816 a year ago.
GM Korea and its 10,000-member union have yet to bridge a gap running deep between them over wages.
From January to September, the five firms' overall sales were down 3.9 percent to 5.81 million from 6.05 million in the same period of last year, the data showed.
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