SsangYong Motor slid two notches from third place to fifth in car sales rankings in the Korean market in September.
It not only lost its third place in monthly sales to Renault Samsung but placed fifth after Mercedes-Benz for the first time this year.
Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors came in first and second by selling 50,139 and 42,005 units, respectively, according to the industry data released on Oct. 6. The two were followed by Renault Samsung (7,817 units), Mercedes-Benz Korea (7,707 units), SsangYong Motor (7,275 units) and GM Korea (5,171 units).
The most notable change is SsangYong's drop to fifth place in the monthly sales rankings. SsangYong had maintained its position as a major brand in the Korean car market based on SUVs. Thanks to the popularity of its flagship cars, the Tivoli and the Korando, SsangYong had never ranked third in terms of monthly sales this year.
But in September, SsangYong was overtaken by Renault Samsung and even by Mercedes-Benz. The fact that Mercedes-Benz beat SsangYong in the standings is particularly shocking. "We once lost to BMW in the Korean market," a SsangYong official said. "We take very seriously the fact that Renault Samsung and even Mercedes-Benz relegated us to fifth place."
Korean car industry experts say that SsangYong’s fall is blamed on poor sales of the small SUV Tivoli, a main model of the automaker. In fact, the Tivoli sold just 2,125 units last month, and sales volume dropped 30.8 percent over the same period last year. On the other hand, Renault Samsung's QM3, a rival model of the Tivoli, sold 855 units, up 95.2 percent. To make the matters worse, the Venue which Hyundai launched in July, sold 3,690 units last month and the Kona also gained popularity by selling 3,636 units.
SsangYong’s decline in sales rankings may be prolonged as its core sales base has been undermined, some experts forecast. Major automakers engage in all-out sales war with massive discounts and marketing events ahead of the launch of new models next year, but SsangYong, which relies on loans from Korea Development Bank, has been not able to carry out aggressive marketing activities.
“It is highly likely that SsangYong’s situation will continue in September due to its high dependence on the Tivoli and a lack of financial resources compared to its competitors,” said an industry insider. “Hyundai and Kia are moving to the electric car segment in the small SUV market but Ssangyong cannot do that. So, SsangYong seems to hardly meet market expectations.”
Among imported car brands, Japanese cars significantly suffered from a boycott of Japanese goods among Koreans. Their September sales fell 60 percent from August. Benefiting the boycott, German car brands sold 14,297 units in September, up 62.7 percent from a year ago. In August, one out of eight new cars sold in Korea was a German brand (Mercedes, BMW and Audi Volkswagen). As German diesel cars lost trust from Korean consumers due to manipulating emissions and fires, Japanese cars such as the Lexus set a new sales record with hybrid cars in the first half of this year but German cars turned the tide. BMW's sales grew 107.1 percent. Audi which recorded zero sales for a while due to delayed certification in connection with strengthened environmental regulations, ranked third among imported car brands by posting 1,996 units in sales in September.
In particular, Mercedes-Benz posted the highest sales volume since March of last year with sales up a whopping 296.7 percent over the same month of last year. For Benz, Korea has already become the fifth largest market after China, the United States, Germany and the United Kingdom last year. The Mercedes-Benz E-Class with an average price tag of 70 million won has sold 26,279 units by August this year. In September, the E300 (1,883 units) and the E300 4MATIC (1,210 units) stood first and third in the imported car sales rankings.
Mercedes-Benz was followed by Renault Samsung (7,311 units), SsangYong (7,275 units), GM Korea (4,643 units) and BMW (4,249 units). In particular, sales of GM Korea and SsangYong Motor dropped 33.3 percent and 5.4 percent, respectively, in September from a year earlier.