This file photo provided by Renault Samsung Motors shows the upgraded QM6 SUV. (Renault Samsung Motors)
GAPYEONG -- Renault Samsung Motors Corp., the South Korean unit of Renault SA, will focus on promoting SUV models to revive sales amid the coronavirus pandemic, the company's country manager said Wednesday.
Renault Samsung has suffered a sharp decline in sales this year in Asia's fourth-biggest economy due to lack of new models and the COVID-19 pandemic's impact on production and sales.
"We don't really know about the market because of the coronavirus, but the QM6 SUV and the XM3 SUV (set to be exported to Europe next year) will help boost sales (in South Korea), though Europe is in a very shaky situation for now," Renault Samsung Chief Executive Dominique Signora told Yonhap News Agency during the QM6 media test-drive event.
Renault Samsung launched the upgraded QM6 SUV in the domestic market last week and plans to start exporting the XM3 SUV to European markets sometime next year.
Looking ahead, Signora expected global carmakers to continue to struggle with weak sales until the middle of next year.
"It is a very difficult time for worldwide automotive companies, and we really have to concentrate on what we can do and concentrate on keeping our activity at the utmost level," he said.
Renault Samsung suspended the operation of its sole plant in Busan, 450 kilometers southeast of Seoul, from Nov. 2-3 to control its inventory as the virus continues to drive down sales.
The Busan plant was shut down from Sept. 25 to Oct. 18 due to the same reasons.
The company also demanded its employees at the plant work during the daytime from Nov. 10-30.
The company said it will conduct more upgrade and maintenance work at the plant's production facility ahead of the manufacturing of the XM3 SUV.
The XM3 comes with either a gasoline hybrid engine or a 1.3-liter gasoline direct-injection turbo engine.
From January to October, its sales plunged 32 percent to 99,077 autos from 144,736 in the same period of last year.
The company's passenger car lineup are the all-electric SM3 ZE all-electric sedan, the all-electric Renault ZOE, the SM6 sedan, the XM3 SUV, the Renault Captur SUV and the QM6 SUV.
The Renault ZOE and the Renault Captur are manufactured in France and Spain and imported for sales in Korea.
Meanwhile, the company and its labor union have yet to sign a wage and collective agreement deal for 2020.
"The company wants to have a smooth negotiation with the union and seeks smooth understanding for the benefit of all," Signora said.
Renault holds an 81 percent stake in Renault Samsung. (Yonhap)