By Kang Yoon-seung
SEOUL, April 13 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's auto exports rebounded 1.3 percent in March from a year earlier to snap their seventh consecutive month of decline on the back of stronger demand for SUVs, data showed Monday.
South Korean carmakers shipped 210,990 units of cars overseas last month, according to the data compiled by the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy. In terms of value, auto exports also advanced 3 percent over the period to US$3.82 billion.
In the first three months of 2020, South Korea shipped 479,388 units of cars, down 17.6 percent from a year earlier, the data showed.
In February, South Korea's exports of cars dipped 25 percent as local carmakers were forced to shut down their production lines for days as they were not able to secure sufficient auto parts from China amid the epidemic.
While the COVID-19 pandemic has been disrupting global trade and business activities, South Korea was still able to expand its auto exports in March due to the strong performance of SUVs.
Outbound shipments of SUVs reached 138,837 units, soaring 13.2 percent from last year.
Overall exports, however, may slip again in the following months as the figures from March reflect orders accepted before COVID-19 hit the United States and other major countries, an official from the ministry said.
Hyundai Motor Co., the nation's No. 1 automaker, saw its overall exports gain 11.8 percent over the period, led by its SUV lineup, including the Palisade.
Outbound shipments by Hyundai's smaller sister affiliate, Kia Motors Corp., also advanced 5.5 percent on the back of the all-new Sorento SUV.
GM Korea Co., the South Korean unit of General Motors Co., saw its exports drop 20.9 percent in March on its suspended shipments to the European Union.
By destination, exports to North America moved up 19.5 percent on-year last month, while shipments to the European Union edged down 0.9 percent.
Sales to Asian countries decreased 37.2 percent over the period, the data added.
South Korea's combined auto production moved up 6.8 percent on-year to 369,165 units in March, and domestic sales shot up 10.1 percent to 172,956 units as carmakers rolled out discount and promotional events to shore up demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
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