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Korean SUV sales soar at home and overseas

Jan 22,2019
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Hyundai Motor’s large-sized SUV, the Palisade, reached over 25,000 preorders three weeks after its release last November. [HYUNDAI MOTOR]
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SUVs have recently grabbed the spotlight in Korea, breaking both local and export sales records.

According to the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA), the number of exported SUVs by five local automakers reached a new record of 1.38 million units in 2018, a 6.7 percent increase from the previous year.

In just 17 years, the figure rose by 700 percent - exports recorded merely 196,111 units in 2000.

Over the same period, overall exports of passenger vehicles declined 3.1 percent to 2.34 million units. The share of SUVs also reached an all-time high.

Compact SUVs from Korea were most popular in export markets.

GM Korea’s Chevrolet Trax was shipped the most, at 239,800 units, followed by Hyundai Motor’s Tucson at 228,461 units.

Small-sized SUVs also performed well, with 202,779 units of Hyundai Motor’s subcompact SUV Kona shipped abroad, a 437 percent rise from the previous year.

Kia Motors’ Stonic exported 58,989 units, increasing 75.8 percent from 2017.

Much of the enthusiasm surrounding SUVs in markets abroad was also present in the local market.

Last year, 519,883 SUVs were sold in Korea, passing the 500,000 unit mark for the first time.

With a 12.7 percent rise from 2017 sales figures of 461,385 units, SUVs currently take up a 40.1 percent share in the overall passenger car sales figures.

Meanwhile, passenger car sales, excluding SUVs, dropped 6.9 percent last year from the previous year.

Hyundai Motor’s mid-sized SUV, the Santa Fe, was the most popular in Korea, selling 107,202 units. This was the first time that an SUV model recorded an annual sales figure over 100,000 units.

The SUV market is expected to grow this year.

As compact and small-sized SUVs are poised to lead exports and medium and small-sized SUVs the local market, large-sized SUVs are also being rolled out this year.

Hyundai Motor’s Palisade, unveiled last November, recorded over 25,000 preorders in just three weeks, hitting 62.5 percent of the automaker’s annual sales target of 40,000 units for the model.

It will likely take customers around seven months to receive the vehicle if ordered now.

According to Hyundai Motor, the large-sized SUV is popular among older drivers. Customers in their 40s accounted for 37 percent of orders and those in their 50s made up 26.9 percent.

“As high-quality amenities and vehicle stability that used to be developed through sedans is now applied to SUVs, there was quite a bit of progress,” said Kim Pil-soo, a professor of automotive engineering at Daelim University.

“This year’s SUV sales and market share will grow as local and foreign SUVs have adopted the advantages of sedans,” added Kim.


BY MOON HEE-CHUL [chae.yunhwan@joongang.co.kr]