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i think this is a good sign for chinese cars in china, since uptrend in US for korean cars

By Ryu Jin
Staff Reporter

South Korean automakers showed poor performance in Europe and China last year amid fierce price competition, the latest report of an industry association showed Sunday.

According to the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA), Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors and other local carmakers put up a relatively good defense in the United States, the world’s largest market, in 2007.

However, the South Korean brands posted negative growth in Europe and China largely due to the lack of new models and tough competition with their foreign counterparts.

Auto sales in the United States and Europe, the world’s two largest markets, topped about 16 million units and some 14.8 million last year, respectively. China, where some 6.29 million cars were sold, is the world’s fastest-growing market.

`Not Bad’ in America

Hyundai Motor and its affiliate Kia Motors sold a total of 772,482 cars in the United States last year, up 3 percent from the previous year.

Given the fact that the U.S. demand for cars fell by about 500,000 units, the figure was not bad. As a result, the market share of the South Korean-made cars also climbed from 4.5 percent in 2006 to 4.8 percent last year.

``Our brands have grabbed a larger share of the U.S. market, which has remained depressed in the last few years due to subprime woes and high crude oil prices,’’ a KAMA official said.

European brands, such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz, accounted for 5.9 percent of the market, not much larger than the South Korean brands, according to the KAMA.

But the fair performance of the South Korean brands was shadowed by their Japanese rivals, which pulled up their market share in the United States by 2.1 percent to 37.1 percent.

Toyota Motors and seven other Japanese manufacturers posted combined sales of 5.96 million units last year, up 3.3 percent from the previous year.

Toyota, in particular, emerged as the No. 2 brand in America with a 16.3 percent market share, elbowing aside Ford (15.6 percent) to chase General Motors, which held a 23.8 percent share.

Poor in Europe, China

On the contrary, the South Korean firms posted negative growth in the European market ― including Norway, Ireland, Switzerland as well as the 15 European Union member states ― and the Chinese market last year.

Hyundai-Kia Automotive Group, which sold 522,990 cars in Europe in 2006, failed to sell even 500,000 last year.

European and American brands sold a total of 12.06 million cars to raise their combined market share from 81.4 to 81.6 percent year on year. Japanese carmakers also sold over 2 million, increasing the market share from 13.5 to 13.6 percent.

Sales of South Korean-made cars in China also dropped from 405,011 units in 2006 to 332,573 last year, dragging down the market share from 7.8 percent to 5.3 percent.

``South Korean carmakers had a difficult time in Europe and China last year, as they lacked new models and lost competitiveness in terms of prices due to the unfavorable foreign exchange rates,’’ the KAMA official said.

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