SEOUL, March 2 (Korea Bizwire) — South Korea’s car sales fell 11 percent last month from a year earlier as supply disruptions caused by the coronavirus outbreak resulted in reduced production.
The country’s five carmakers — Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors Corp., GM Korea Co., Renault Samsung Motors Corp. and SsangYong Motor Co. — sold a combined 505,212 vehicles in February, down from 565,568 units a year ago, according to data from the companies.
The lower sales largely resulted from shortages of auto components provided by their suppliers in China. They suspended production lines during an extended Lunar New Year holiday, from Jan. 24 to Feb. 9, amid the spread of COVID-19.
The carmakers’ overall domestic sales plunged 20 percent to 81,722 vehicles in February from 102,285 units a year ago. Their overseas sales declined 8.6 percent to 423,490 autos from 463,283 over the cited period, the data showed.
Hyundai sold 275,044 units, down 13 percent from 315,820 a year earlier.
The maker of the Sonata sedan and the Santa Fe sport-utility vehicle suspended its production lines in Ulsan, 414 kilometers southeast of Seoul, from Feb. 7-10. Its production was affected for a week through Feb. 21.
It was the first time that Hyundai had suspended all of its domestic plants since 1997, when the Asian financial crisis affected local manufacturers and Mando Corp. stopped supplying parts to the carmaker.
Kia sold 187,844 units, down 5 percent from 197,656 units during the same period. The maker of the K5 sedan and the Sorento SUV halted its plants on Feb. 10 and operated them partially for a week through Feb. 21.
Their sales in China remained weak last month.
Tepid demand in the world’s biggest automobile market is expected to remain another headache for the carmakers in achieving their overall sales target of 7.54 million vehicles in global markets this year.
They sold 7.2 million units last year, missing their target of 7.55 million units.
In China, Hyundai and Kia saw sales decline due to tougher competition and lack of new models, though political tensions between Seoul and Beijing caused by the deployment of an advanced U.S. missile defense system, called THAAD, in South Korea in 2017 have since eased.
To offset weak demand in China, the carmakers said they will put a bigger focus on boosting sales in the U.S. market this year by launching Hyundai’s Tucson SUV, Hyundai’s independent Genesis brand’s GV80 SUV and G80 sedan and Kia’s Sportage SUV.
The three other carmakers also suffered declines in January sales due to lack of parts from China and lack of new models.
Renault Samsung was the worst performer. Its sales plunged 40 percent on-year to 7,057 units in February from 11,721.
The company stopped the operation of its sole plant in Busan, 453 km south of Seoul, for four working days last month.
GM Korea’s sales declined 14 percent to 28,126 from 32,718 during the same period as it stopped some assembly lines of its main plant in Bupyeong, just west of Seoul, for two days last month.
SUV-focused SsangYong Motor’s sales fell 25 percent to 7,141 from 9,481 as it stopped the operation of its sole plant in Pyeongtaek, 70 kilometers south of Seoul, for nine days last month.
In the January-February period, the five carmakers sold 1,071,542 vehicles, down 7.4 percent from 1,156,838 a year earlier.
South Korea reported a total of 4,335 confirmed coronavirus cases and 26 related deaths as of Monday.