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Korean cars on roll in Africa, Middle East

Shipments of South Korean vehicles to Africa and the Middle East soared nearly 35 percent in the first half of this year, helping the regions emerge as the country’s biggest markets, industry data showed Tuesday.

South Korea’s five carmakers led by Hyundai Motor Co. exported $1.28 billion worth of vehicles to African nations in the January-June period, up 34.4 percent from a year ago, according to data compiled by the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association.

The other companies are Kia Motors Corp., GM Korea Co., Renault Samsung Motors Co. and Ssangyong Motor Co.

Shipments to the African region exceeded the $1 billion mark for the first time in 2006 and topped $2 billion last year, the data showed. Exports for all of 2012 are forecast to reach $2.5 billion.

The KAMA data also showed that South Korea’s first-half car exports to Middle East countries rose 8.1 percent on-year to hit a record $4.1 billion.

KAMA expects shipments to the oil-rich region to exceed $8 billion by the end of 2012.

Hyundai shipped 49,704 units to Africa between January and June, up 41.4 percent from a year earlier, while its smaller affiliate Kia posted a 36.4 percent on-year jump in exports to the region, with 42,470 units.

In the Middle East, Hyundai and Kia sold 147,042 units and 103,941 units, respectively, over the same period, according to the KAMA data.

“In the midst of an economic slowdown in Europe and other big markets, global carmakers are placing greater focus on Africa and the Middle East,” said an industry source. “South Korean companies will grow further in the Middle East as Hyundai and Kia are leading the market there.” (Yonhap News)
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