January 30, 2023

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Korea’s Automobile Exports Hit US$4.4bn in April

Vehicles waiting for shipment at a yard in Pyeongtaek Port, Gyeonggi Province



Korea’s automobile exports amounted to US$4.4 billion in April, up 6.1 percent from the same period of 2021. Export growth was led by eco-friendly vehicles amid a global push for carbon neutrality. However, production decreased due to a shortage of semiconductors and disruptions in parts supply triggered by China’s large-scale lockdowns.

The April automobile export figure was the highest since the outbreak of COVID-19, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy on May 16. Korea shipped a total of 196,780 vehicles abroad in April, up 12.4 percent from the same period of 2021. The figure was the second highest since 206,677 units in March 2020.

Exports to all major regions except the EU and Eastern Europe increased: The growth rates were 30.9 percent for the Middle East, 23.4 percent for Latin America, 15.9 percent for Africa, 55.9 percent for Oceania, 48.4 percent for Asia and 1.0 percent for North America. Exports to the EU and Eastern Europe shrank 6.9 percent and 26.4 percent, respectively.

Eco-friendly vehicles drove the growth of exports. They accounted for 24.4 percent of the total, up 4.9 percentage points from 19.5 percent in the same period of 2021. The cumulative number of eco-friendly car exports from January to last month reached 174,844, up 40.6 percent from 121,433 in the same period of 2021. In particular, hybrid car exports swelled for 16 consecutive months, exceeding US$600 million for the first time in history.

Domestic eco-friendly car sales have also continued to grow for the third month in a row. The number of home-made electric vehicles sold in Korea in April soared by 193.5 percent to 10,942 units compared to the same period 2021 (3,728 units). During the same period, domestic sales of Korean hybrid cars also jumped by 55.2 percent from 10,797 units to 16,760 units. Domestic sales of imported electric vehicles such as Tesla also surged 248.4 percent to 1,526 units from 438 units.

However, automakers are experiencing disruptions in production due to a prolonged shortage of automotive semiconductors and a difficulty in supplying parts as China has locked down major cities in accordance with its zero-COVID-19 policy. Automobile production in April hit 306,462 units, down 5.3 percent from the same month of 2021. In fact, Kia Corp. produced 126,000 cars last month, down 17.3 percent from the same period of 2021. GM Korea also suffered a 14 percent drop in production as it was unable to properly supply some parts due to a lockdown of Shanghai, China.

Foreign carmakers were also unable to avoid a shortage of semiconductors for vehicles. They included Mercedes-Benz and BMW and sold 23,200 cars in Korea in April, down 10.6 percent from the same period of 2021. Their domestic sales have declined for eight consecutive months since September 2021.

Meanwhile, domestic automobile sales reached 143,167 units last month, down 11.1 percent in the past one-year period. It was blamed on a delay in shipments among others. Specifically, Hyundai Motor sold 59,415 vehicles for domestic use last month, down 15.4 percent from the same period of 2021.