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Car exports grow 24.2% on strong sales of hybrids

This file photo shows the electric GV60 SUV built on the E-GMP platform. (Hyundai Motor)
This file photo shows the electric GV60 SUV built on the E-GMP platform. (Hyundai Motor)
South Korea posted $46.47 billion in car exports last year, up 24.2 percent from the previous year which was hit hard by COVID-19, government data showed on Tuesday.

Export volume surged 8.6 percent to 2.05 million units, marking the first time in nine years to see exports rise in both volume and value.

The country’s car production and sales volume at home, on the other hand, dropped 1.3 percent on-year to 3.46 million units and 8.5 percent to 1.73 million units, respectively.

The Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy attributed the export growth to strong sales of eco-friendly cars and the rising global market share of Korean brands, which continued to grow from 7.4 percent in 2017 to 8.4 percent in the first 11 months of last year.

One out of five vehicles sold in Korea and exported from the country were eco-friendly cars.

A total of 406,922 eco-friendly were exported last year, up 50 percent from a year ago.

More than half of them were hybrids, the export volume of which jumped 71 percent to 212,857 units.

Exports to most regions marked two-digit growth – 37.8 percent in the European Union; 56.4 percent in eastern Europe; 12.6 percent in the Middle East; 69.7 percent in Central and South Americas; 71.6 percent in Africa; 41.6 percent in Oceania; 31.9 percent in Asia.

Thanks to robust global sales of cars, exports of automotive components also surged 22.2 percent to $22.78 billion, marking the first growth in seven years.

While production of cars slightly dipped amid the prolonged pandemic and a global shortage of semiconductors, Korea continued to be the world’s fifth producer of automobiles after China, the US, Japan and India.

Domestic sales dropped from the record-breaking figure in 2020 – Korean-made cars by 10.4 percent to 1.43 million units, and imported cars by 2 percent to about 297,000 units.

The country’s bestselling car last year was the Hyundai Grandeur (89,084 units), followed by the Kia Carnival (73,503 units), Hyundai Avante (71,036 units), Kia Sorento (69,934 units) and Hyundai Sonata (63,109 units).

Sales of eco-friendly cars in Korea last year rose 54.5 percent from the previous year, while sales of combustion engine vehicles fell 17 percent.

Some 12.9 percent of the vehicles sold here last year were hybrids, and 5.6 percent were electric cars, up from 8.7 percent and 2.4 percent in 2020, respectively.

By Kim So-hyun (
Korea Herald Youtube