Sales by automakers in South Korea grew in March for the first time this year, raising hopes that demand might be picking up both at home and abroad, industry data showed Wednesday.
The combined sales of the five local automakers came to 801,997 units last month, up 1.5 percent from the previous year's 790,283, according to the data provided by each company. Their total domestic sales grew 4.8 percent to 127,216 units, with overseas shipments rising 0.8 percent to 674,781 units.
This marked the first time that sales have expanded on-year since the start of this year. Their combined sales in January and February fell 3.4 percent and 6.5 percent on-year, respectively.
The five are Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp., GM Korea Co., Renault Samsung Motors Co. and Ssangyong Motor Co. The figures excluded complete knockdown kits that are assembled abroad.
The hike was attributed to a rebound in both domestic and overseas demand.
Hyundai Motor, the country's largest automaker, posted a 0.8 percent gain in car sales last month, with its domestic and overseas demand expanding 0.3 percent and 0.9 percent, respectively.
Those figures are in contrast with the previous month when its sales here and abroad dropped 8.8 percent and 5 percent. The turnaround comes despite still tough market conditions and deepening external market uncertainty.
"Growth is slowing down mostly in emerging markets and uncertainty is deepening due to currency fluctuations. Competition is also getting intense," the company said in a press release.
Strong demand for sport utility vehicles helped boost the sales of Kia Motors, the second-largest automaker in the country.
The automaker, a smaller affiliate of Hyundai Motor, said that its sales expanded 1.8 percent on-year in March, with domestic and overseas sales expanding 8.5 percent and 0.7 percent, respectively.
In particular, the Sportage R SUV was the best-seller in overseas markets, with 36,067 units bound for other countries last month.
Ssangyong Motor, the smallest carmaker in South Korea, saw its sales decline 2.2 percent, but the pace of drop significantly moderated from a month earlier when they plunged 18.4 percent.
The company expected things to improve down the road on the back of the Tivoli SUV, whose overseas shipping started last month to Europe and Latin American countries.
"We will further expand global sales by actively responding to the growing SUV market based on the overseas launching of the Tivoli," said Choi Johng-sik, the CEO of Ssangyong Motor.
GM Korea, the local unit of General Motors Co., continued to suffer from a fall in exports, affected by the pullout of its Chevrolet-badge vehicles from Europe. Its total sales shrank 11.6 percent with exports declining 14.9 percent.
RSM, the local unit of French automaker Renault S.A., seemed to have outperformed other competitors with their sales jumping nearly two-fold.
The spike in sales was largely attributed to the company's strong overseas sales, which tripled from a year earlier to 15,343 units.
Despite last month's relatively strong performance, the cumulative sales of the five automakers for this year still remained weak compared with last year.
During the January-March period, their sales came to 2,166,163 units, down 2.6 percent from the same period a year earlier, the data showed. (Yonhap)