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South Korea’s Automobile Sales Reach Record High Level in 2020 Despite the Pandemic

South Korea's automobile sales rose 5.2% year-on-year to 1.87 million units in 2020, marking a record high in the face of the pandemic. In South Korea, the spread of the new coronavirus was curbed at an early stage, and sales were boosted by the reduction of the individual consumption tax on automobiles introduced in March 2020 as a measure to stimulate demand. In addition, full-model change of volume-selling models and the release of new models also aided sales.

By vehicle type, passenger vehicles rose 6.6% to 1.63 million units. Of this, SUVs increased 16.0% to 714,000 units, driving up overall growth. Passenger cars (sedans and hatchbacks) also rose 1.0% to 818,000 units, increasing for the first time in four years. Commercial vehicles decreased 3.8% to 241,000 units, going down for the third consecutive year.

By brand, market-leader Hyundai fell 0.8% to 679,000 units.

Sales of mainstay models fell short, so results were roughly on par with the previous year. Hyundai’s premium brand Genesis rose 90.8% to 108,000 units. Two models, the G80 and GV80, contributed significantly to the increase. The combined market-share of Hyundai and Genesis rose 0.4pp to 41.9%. As for other automakers, Kia increased 6.0% to 552,000 units, followed by Renault Samsung with 96,000 units, up 10.5%, Ssangyong with 88,000 units, down 18.5% and Chevrolet (GM Korea) with 83,000 units, up 8.5%.

Sales of electric vehicles rose 39.6% to 193,000 units. The ratio of electric vehicles to total automobile sales rose 2.5pp to 10.3%, surpassing 10% for the first time. Of which, HEVs rose 46.3% to 144,000 units and BEV increased 7.9% to 33,000 units.

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