SEOUL -- South Korean automakers saw their sales rebound in October after strikes dented production in September, with industry leader Hyundai Motor Co. reporting record monthly sales.
A post-strike order backlog at Hyundai and number-two Kia Motors Corp., a more stable won currency and solid overseas demand are likely to underpin strong sales for the rest of the year, analysts said.
Domestic sales growth in October was slow, however, with a fuller recovery in the local economy seen only in 2006.
"Sales numbers returned to normal in October," said Choi Dae-sik, an analyst at CJ Investment & Securities. "Domestic demand still remains weak, but they are doing well overseas."
The car industry accounts for a tenth of South Korea's total exports.
October automobile exports jumped 15.8 percent from a year earlier to a combined 369,548 units, while domestic sales grew only 3.9 percent to 97,258 units, data from car makers showed on Tuesday.
Total sales climbed 13.1 percent to 466,806 vehicles, a sharp improvement from a 1.1 percent increase in September but slower than August's 17 percent rise.
KIA YET TO RECOVER
Hyundai, which controls half the domestic market, reported a 10 percent rise in October sales from a year earlier, to a record 232,570 vehicles.
In September, it saw sales drop 8.5 percent due to labor actions by its 42,500-member union during the annual wage negotiations, which delayed shipments of popular models such as the Grandeur and Sonata sedans.
"Demand for the Sonata sedan was very strong last month," said Jake Jang, a Hyundai Motor spokesman. "We are set for strong sales in the fourth quarter."
Its exports climbed 10.4 percent to 181,813 units, while local sales rose 8.6 percent to 50,757 units.
Kia, a Hyundai Motor affiliate that controls 23 percent of the domestic car maker, was the only producer to report a decline in October sales from a year earlier. Its sales fell 2.7 percent to 99,388 units, with exports and domestic sales dipping 2.8 percent and 2.1 percent, respectively.
Production at Kia's main plant was halted between late September and early October due to a strike by its contract workers who demanded better payment and working conditions.
Robust exports also helped smaller rivals last month.
Third-ranked GM Daewoo Automotive and Technology Co. reported record sales of 112,631 in October -- a 41 percent surge from a year earlier.
Renault Samsung Motors Inc., the local unit of Renault SA, said its sales jumped 46 percent in October to 9,801 units. It offers only three passenger car models.
However, Ssangyong Motor Co., owned by China's Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp., recorded flat sales compared with October 2004 at 12,416 units, as a 38 percent drop in local sales wiped out strong exports.