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SUVs lead domestic vehicle sales
A continued sports utility vehicle boom increased the total domestic sales of five Korean carmakers in April, according to industry data released by each company on Monday. 

The five locally operating car manufacturers are Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors, GM Korea, Renault Samsung Motors and Ssangyong Motor.

Their combined domestic sales grew 2.9 percent to 133,935 units last month from the same period a year ago, with overseas shipments shrinking 1.3 percent to 663,904 units, the data said. 

“Behind the domestic sales growth of Korean carmakers, which face growing competition from foreign carmakers, is the continued popularity of SUVs,” an industry analyst said
Changing lifestyles and a leisure boom in Korea have boosted sales of SUVs over the past few years, he said. SUVs include crossovers and minivans here. 

Hyundai Motor, the nation’s largest carmaker, saw its domestic sales fall 4.3 percent to 63,050 units last month from a year ago. Sales of SUVs, however, jumped 28 percent to 15,838 units last month from the same period last year thanks to better-than-expected demand for its all-new Tucson, released in mid-March.

The company sold 9,255 units of its new affordable compact SUV last month, a 165.5 percent increase to 9,255 units from the same period a year ago. All-new Tucson was the second best-selling model last month after Hyundai’s light cargo truck Porter. 

Kia Motors achieved a 10.4 percent growth in domestic sales last month thanks to popularity of its 2015 Sorento SUVs and 2015 Canival minivans. 

Sales of the two leisure vehicles rose 78.1 percent on-year to 16,633 last month, the company data said. 

The same trend was found in the other three carmakers. Sales of Renault Samsung’s QM3 compact SUVs surged 81.9 percent to 2,628 units last month.

Domestic sales by GM Korea fell 3 percent, but its small SUV Chevrolet Trax continued double digit growth. 

Industry insiders predict the SUV boom will continue, based on continued interest in leisure activities and higher loyalty of SUV drivers than sedan users. 

“It seems to be hard to go back to a sedan again considering the benefits of SUVs such as increased space, fuel efficiency and a good view of the road ahead,” said Kim Min-rae, 40, who drives a 2015 Kia Sorento. 

By Seo Jee-yeon (jyseo@heraldcorp.com)