Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors' automobiles sit ready to be shipped abroad at Pyeongtaek Port in Gyeonggi Province, Wednesday. / Courtesy of Hyundai Motor
By Cho Mu-hyun
Chung Mong-koo Hyunai Motor chairman
Hyundai Motor Group said Wednesday that the cumulative global sales of its vehicles are expected to break the 50 million mark in March on the back of solid demand abroad despite the global economic downturn.
Hyundai Motor, Korea's top automaker, and its smaller affiliate Kia Motors said their combined vehicle sales abroad reached 48.3 million at the end of last year. Hyundai started exporting cars in 1976 and Kia in 1975.
Given that they are selling between 500,000 and 600,000 cars monthly, it is highly probable that they will reach the milestone early next month.
"It is meaningful as we started off with a weak industrial foundation and ventured into a market with high entry barriers and controlled by companies in the U.S., Europe and Japan," said a Hyundai spokesman.
The two companies broke the 10 million mark in 2001 and 20 million in 2006. Their growth rate accelerated afterwards, reaching 30 million in 2009 and 40 million in 2011.
Hyundai's best selling model, the Avante, has sold over 83 million worldwide.
The firm exports 19 models sold in Korea and 18 other vehicles specifically designed just for consumers in other countries.
Kia exports 18 models available in Korea and has 8 variants exclusively designed for foreign markets.
Since 2002, Hyundai Chairman Chung Mong-koo has been expanding overseas manufacturing bases to better venture into the United States and developing nations.
In the United States, Europe and India the two firms can make 600,000 cars respectively a year. Their biggest manufacturing base abroad is China, which has a capacity of 1.44 million vehicles a year with Russia capable of producing 200,000, Brazil 150,000 and Turkey 100,000.
Hyundai boasts a manufacturing capacity of 1.86 million cars in Korea annually and Kia 1.65 million.
Auto parts and vehicles sales abroad accounted for 13.1 percent of Korea's total exports of $548 billion last year, according to Hyundai. Despite the decline in total exports, auto parts surged 6.5 percent and vehicles 4.1.
Last year the auto industry's trade surplus was $61.7 billion, over double that of Korea's total surplus of $28.5 billion.
Hyundai and Kia's self-development of key car components contributed to the high margins. They make over 90 percent of parts in their cars themselves, while auto components and cars accounted only for 2 percent of the nation's total imports.
Last year, Korea was the fifth largest manufacturer of automobiles, making 4.56 million. Hyundai and Kia say they will continue to maintain their position in the industry amid increased competition globally.