Sales of South Korean automakers dipped 2.1 percent last month from a year earlier, due mainly to fewer working days from the Lunar New Year holiday, industry data showed Monday.
Combined sales of five car manufacturers, including market leader Hyundai Motor Co., reached 740,705 vehicles in January, down from 756,635 units sold in the first month of 2013.
Domestic sales stood at 106,343 units, up 1.9 percent from 104,377 vehicles for January 2013, while overseas sales, which count both exports and cars made overseas by local original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), were tallied at 634,362, down 2.7 percent from 652,258 reported for the previous year.
"Compared with 2013, when the Lunar New Year holidy was in February, this year's holiday that fell on Friday affected the total number of working days that is closely linked to output," an industry insider said. He said that while the three-day holiday played a role in the weaker numbers, lingering economic uncertainties at home and abroad may have dampened the demand.
He said that on the other hand, South Korean carmakers launched brand new or refreshed models in the past few months that helped sales in the home market.
Four local automakers -- Hyundai; GM Korea Co., the local unit of General Motors Co. of the United States; No. 4 player Ssangyong Motor, the local unit of Indian sport utility vehicle (SUV) maker Mahindra & Mahindra; and Renault Samsung Motor, the smallest of the local OEMs -- all did better in terms of sales last month than a year earlier.
Only Kia Motors Corp., Hyundai's smaller sister company, reported domestic sales dropping 6.2 percent on-year.
Hyundai, the flagship company of Hyundai Motor Group, the world's fifth-largest automotive conglomerate, said domestic sales grew 2.6 percent annually thanks to robust demand for its brand new Genesis premium sedan and the new Azera hybrid cars.
The Azera, known as the Grandeur in South Korea, sold 8,134 units overall in the one month period, making it the best seller in the Hyundai lineup.
"New car models helped domestic sales in the first month of the year," a Hyundai official said.
The company said sales of its Tucson ix and Sante Fe SUVs also contributed to better sales.
GM's sales gained 8.4 percent, while numbers for Ssangyong and Renault Samsung were up 34.9 percent and 16.9 percent, respectively.
Ssangyong, who mostly makes SUV and off-roaders, said it sold more than 5,000 vehicles in South Korea last month thanks to the popularity of its Korando series of vehicles.
Kia sales in the local market contracted 6.2 percent, even though it reported solid demand for its revised 2014-model-year K9 luxury sedan.
In the domestic market, the Azera led the pack in sales volume, with Hyundai's Sante Fe, Elantra and Sonata all making the top five best-selling car list. Kia's Picanto ranked third on the list.
In regards to overseas sales, fewer working days affected both cars shipped from South Korea and those made abroad. All car assembly lines operated by South Korean carmakers in foreign markets rely on parts shipped from the country.
Overseas sales of Hyundai and Kia were off 0.7 percent and 0.5 percent each, with domestic production all falling by the 8 percent to 9 percent range compared with last year. But production at their overseas plants was all up, which to some extent compensated for weak local production.
GM Korea's exports, hit by weak demand for Chevrolet-badged cars, were down 25.3 percent on-year, with Ssangyong numbers, including so-called knockdown kits used to make cars, falling 6 percent.
Exports by Renault Samsung rose 18.2 percent, as models like the SM3 compact sedan and QM5 crossover utility vehicle generated demand in foreign markets.
Carmakers said that while overall numbers remain a bit sluggish at present, market conditions may improve this year, which can translate into more sales and profits.
The launch of new cars such as the brand new Sonata, made by Hyundai, along with Kia's Sedona minivan and other revamped vehicles can help fuel demand, the Hyundai official said. (Yonhap)