By Choi Kyong-ae
SEOUL, May 3 (Yonhap) -- South Korean carmakers' sales jumped 77 percent last month from a year earlier driven by robust overseas demand for SUVs amid the extended COVID-19 pandemic, industry data showed Monday.
The five carmakers -- Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Corp., GM Korea Co., Renault Samsung Motors Corp. and SsangYong Motor Co. -- sold a combined 630,691 vehicles in April, up from 356,604 units a year ago, according to data from the companies.
Their domestic sales fell 6.6 percent to 135,601 units last month from 495,090 a year ago. But overseas sales more than doubled to 495,090 from 211,463 during the same period, the data showed.
Hyundai and its affiliate Kia saw their strong overseas sales help prop up their monthly performance.
On top of robust overseas demand, Hyundai said it benefited from a low base effect, in which it suffered disrupted production at its plants due to the pandemic in the same month of last year.
In April, Hyundai's sales more than doubled to 345,777 units from 167,693 a year ago, and Kia's jumped 78 percent to 249,734 from 140,262 over the cited period.
The monthly results were helped by strong overseas demand for Hyundai's Palisade, Tucson and Santa Fe SUVs and Kia's Sportage and Sorento SUVs.
Brisk sales of the GV70 and GV80 SUVs under Hyundai's independent Genesis brand at home also buoyed Hyundai's sales results last month, the country's top automaking group said.
This year, Hyundai and Kia said they will continue to focus on promoting their new models, including Hyundai's all-electric IONIQ 5 crossover utility vehicle and Kia's K8 sedan and all-electric EV6 model, to ride out the virus crisis.
The corporate duo aim to sell a combined 7.08 million vehicles this year, 1.7 percent lower than the 7.2 million units they sold last year.
Three other carmakers suffered declines in their April sales amid the prolonged pandemic.
GM Korea's sales declined 25 percent to 21,455 units last month from 28,749 a year ago, while SsangYong's were down 36 percent to 4,351 from 6,813 over the cited period.
SsangYong's Indian parent Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. is in the process of selling its controlling stake in SsangYong as part of its global reorganization plans.
The SUV-focused carmaker has been in the debt-rescheduling process since April 15 as its Indian parent Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd. has failed to attract an investor amid the prolonged COVID-19 pandemic and worsening financial status.
Renault Samsung Motors Corp. reported a 29 percent on-year drop in sales at 9,344 autos last month from 13,087 due to lack of new models.
From January to April, the five carmakers' combined sales rose 20 percent to 2.45 million units from 2.05 million in the year-ago period.
The global semiconductor chip shortage is expected to affect carmakers' vehicle production in the second quarter and their sales.
Carmakers are readjusting their vehicle production volumes while competing with electronics companies to get more chips to minimize output reduction.
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