Sales of sports utility vehicles that rose sharply in South Korea over the past few years are showing signs of market saturation, industry data showed Tuesday.
SUV sales surged to 454,669 units last year, up from 452,200 the previous year, according to figures from the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association.
The 2016 figure represents a pronounced increase from 243,906 in 2010.
The number of vehicles sold last year accounts for 33.8 percent of total passenger cars sold that reached 1,343,379 units, marking a slight decline from 34.1 percent a year earlier.
It is the first time in the past few years that the market share of SUVs in the country's passenger cars has decreased.
The market share has gradually moved up to 34.1 percent in 2015 from 19.3 percent in 2011, 21.8 percent in 2012, 25.8 percent in 2013 and 27.8 percent in 2014.
The declining trend continued early this year.
Sales of SUVs fell to 27,703 units in January, down 8.6 percent from 30,302 from a year earlier.
The market share of SUVs also slipped to 31.9 percent for the first month this year, down from 35.2 percent tallied for the same period last year.
"Potential demand appears to have decreased with the sharp rise the number of SUVs in recent years," an industry source said. "The recent rise in oil prices also seems to have attributed to falling demand."
SUVs are usually less fuel efficient than other passenger cars because of their high profile.
The growing popularity of Hyundai Motor Co.'s new Grandeur full-size sedan and the Sonata New Rise mid-size sedan may have contributed to sluggish sale of SUVs, the source said.
Monthly sales of the new Grandeur surpassed 10,000 units for the third consecutive month in February.
The Sonata New Rise, a face lift of the seventh-generation midsize sedan launched in 2014, has also grabbed the attention of buyers since its introduction last week.
"However, demand for SUVs is still good," another source said, noting Hyundai Motor Co. and its sister company Kia Motors Corp.
will roll out new SUVs in the latter half of the year. (Yonhap)