By Choi Kyong-ae
SEOUL, June 1 (Yonhap) -- South Korean carmakers' sales rose 41 percent last month from a year earlier on strong overseas demand amid a quicker-than-expected recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic and a lower base effect, industry data showed Tuesday.
The country's five carmakers -- Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Corp., GM Korea Co., Renault Samsung Motors Corp. and SsangYong Motor Co. -- sold a combined 608,430 vehicles in May, up from 432,621 units a year ago, according to data from the companies.
Their domestic sales fell 13 percent to 124,145 units last month from 142,410 a year ago. But overseas sales jumped to 484,285 from 290,211 during the same period, the data showed.
Hyundai and its affiliate Kia outshined rivals here, with their overseas sales helping prop up their monthly performance.
On top of robust sales of their sport utility vehicle models, the companies benefited from a lower base effect, as they suffered disrupted production at their plants due to the pandemic in the same month of last year.
In May, Hyundai's sales jumped 43 percent to 323,129 units from 226,456 a year ago, and Kia's also climbed 49 percent to 245,994 from 164,893 over the cited period.
The monthly results were backed largely by strong overseas demand for Hyundai's Palisade, Tucson and Santa Fe SUVs and Kia's Sportage and Sorento SUVs.
In contrast, shortage of semiconductor components affected vehicle production in their domestic plants and sales last month.
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 pandemic crisis.
They 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.
Renault Samsung and GM Korea suffered declines in their May sales due to lack of new models amid the pandemic.
GM Korea's sales fell 34 percent to 16,428 units last month from 24,778 a year ago, while Renault Samsung's were down 13 percent to 10,348 from 11,929 during the cited period.
But SsangYong Motor's sales rose 6 percent to 8,750 units from 8,254 on increased shipments of its SUV models.
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.
From January to May, the five companies' combined sales rose 23 percent to 3.06 million units from 2.48 million in the year-ago period.
A global chip shortage is expected to affect carmakers' vehicle production in June 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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