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SUVs and EVs Lead Korea’s Car Exports Growth
Vehicle Exports up for 5 Months
SUVs and EVs Lead Korea’s Car Exports Growth
  • By Michael Herh
  • September 17, 2019, 13:47
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Hyundai Motor’s flagship 8-seat SUV Palisade

South Korea's automobile exports have posted a rise for five consecutive months despite slowing demand in the global automobile market.

In August, Korea's automobile exports reached US$2,976 million, up 4.6 percent from a year ago, data from the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy showed. Analysts say that the increase is attributable to the release of new sport utility vehicles (SUVs) with high export unit prices and electric vehicles which are enjoying a growing popularity.

It is the first time since June 2017 that Korea’s automobile exports grew for five consecutive months. According to the Korea Customs Service, passenger car exports grew 20 percent in the first 10 days of September.

However, in terms of the number of cars shipped, the upward trend stopped in August. In the first 10 days of September, Korea exported 164,154 units, 3.4 percent down from a year before. The drop was due to the August summer vacation in the automobile industry and slowing demand worldwide.

In August, the number of passenger cars and commercial vehicles exported dropped 2.8 percent and 15.1 percent from a year ago, respectively. By car makers, Hyundai Motor (-8.7 percent), Kia (-2.3 percent), SsangYong (-13.8 percent) and Renault Samsung (-7.3 percent) posted export drops while only GM Korea chalked up an increase of 25.4 percent. During the first eight months of this year, only Hyundai and Kia increased their exports 7.5 percent and 6.5 percent, respectively, while GM Korea (-3.5percent), SsangYong (-22.1percent) and Renault Samsung (-38.9 percent) suffered export drops.

SUVs and electric vehicles (EVs), which command high unit prices, received favorable responses from consumers the United States and Europe, boosting the revenues of vehicle exports. Hyundai Motor began to export the Palisade SUV to the United States in June and sold 4,464 units in July and 5,115 units in August. SUVs such as the Tucson, the Kona, and the Trax ranked high in the export standings.

Hyundai and Kia put up a good fight in the U.S. market, leading Korea’s automobile export growth. Last month, their sales growth in the U.S. market was 13.8 percent, higher than that of Japanese cars (13.1 percent). The growth rate was lower than Honda’s 17.6 percent but higher than Toyota’s 11.3 percent, Nissan and Mitsubishi’s 12.1 percent and Mazda’s 3.4percent.

Korea’s EV exports amounted to US$225 million in August, a small share of the total, but their increase rate was 106.7 percent.