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Robust SUV sales drive Korean carmakers’ US market share to 9-yr high

Oct 05, 2020 (Gmt+09:00)

South Korean automakers’ share of the US passenger car market has risen to its highest level in nine years, boosted by brisk sales of sport utility vehicles, industry data showed on Oct. 5. Local carmakers have bolstered their SUV lineups with new models in recent years.

According to the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA), Korean carmakers accounted for 8.9% of the US market in the June-August period, with a total sale of 327,583 units. That’s up from the 7.7% during the three months to February, just before the global outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest figure marks the highest point since 2011, when Korean automakers also accounted 8.9% of the world’s largest auto market.

The recent rise in Korean automakers’ US market share contrasts the showing of their global rivals, which posted a steady sales decline in the American market.

While the US market share of General Motors Co. fell to 16.3% from 18.1% in the June-August period, that of Toyota Motor Corp. slipped to 13.9% from 14.2%.

The combined market share of US brands, including GM, Ford, Chrysler and Tesla, declined to 43.9% from 45.3%.
Industry officials attributed the rise in Korean automakers’ US market share to brisk sales of SUVs made by Hyundai Motor Co. and its sister firm Kia Motors Corp. Their new SUV models include the high-end Hyundai Palisade and two compact SUVs, Hyundai's Venue and Kia's Seltos.

Alongside the increased sale of SUV models, improved quality ratings and effective inventory control helped Korean automakers expand their market share in the US, according to the industry association.

Most global automakers, including Hyundai and Kia, suspended operations of their US plants from March to May of this year, affected by the rapid spread of the coronavirus. But Hyundai and Kia managed to run their plants in Korea during the period, ensuring a stable supply of SUVs to the US market to meet growing demand.

Analysts, however, said Korean automakers may face tough competition from the fourth quarter of this year as their rivals resume US operations amid enhanced marketing efforts.

“The competition among global players in the US market is expected to grow fiercer toward year-end,” said KAMA Chairman Jung Man-ki.

Write to Byung-Uk Do at

Edited by In-Soo Nam

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