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South Korea May 2020: Genesis scores first podium finish, G80 up to record #5, market shoots up 12.7%

The new G80 lifts Genesis to its first podium finish at home.

Despite a small flareup since May 27, the COVID-19 economic impact on the South Korean market is well and truly over, with the country falling from 2nd most affected in the world as of March 6 when we initially published February 2020 data (6.284 cases) to 56th at the time of writing this (11.902). And the new car market has rallied back in spectacular fashion with May sales up a fantastic 12.7% year-on-year to 169.402, spilt between 146.130 sales for local carmakers (+11.7%) and 23.272 for foreigners (+19.1%). As a result the year-to-date tally tilts back into positive – the only market in the world to do so in 2020 – at +0.3% to 721.794 including 620.908 locals (-1.3%) and 100.886 foreigners (+14%). We have amended our 2020 forecast for South Korea from 1.83m to 1.87m which is a 6% lift on 2019 and would position South Korea as the 4th largest car market in the world below just China, the USA, Japan and Germany and above India, Brazil, France and the UK.

In the brands ranking, Hyundai (-2.5%) goes against its home market with a slight decline to 34.1% share vs. 36.4% so far in 2020 but sister brand Kia (+19.7%) shows outstanding health at 30.2% share. The event of the month is Hyundai’s premium outlet Genesis (+126.5%) more than doubling its sales year-on-year and entering a completely new dimension in the past couple of months: with a previous all-time record volume and share was 6.404 and 4.8% in January, it smashed that last month at 10.217 and 6.2% and improves a further 27% in May to 12.960 and 7.7%. This allows Genesis to climb onto the South Korean brands podium for the very first time at #3. Renault Samsung (+72.4%) is also extremely strong at #4, as are Lamborghini (+520%), Porsche (+393.8%), Bentley (+114.3%), Volkswagen (+80.8%), Citroen (+50%) and BMW (+45%) further down.

Has Genesis finally cracked the premium equation?

Model-wise, the Hyundai Grandeur (+61.1%) easily holds onto the top spot but quite strikingly posts the smallest year-on-year gain in the Top 5, with new generations each time boosting volumes. The Hyundai Avante (+97.4%) is up to #2, hitting its highest ranking since October 2016 and stringiest volume since June 2016. The Kia Sorento (+104.4%) is down one spot on April to #3 but scores its highest volume since September 2017. The Kia K5 (+161.3%) remains at #4 but the most spectacular progression is delivered by the Genesis G80 (+287.2%) up 7 spots on last month to break into the South Korean Top 5 for the very first time whereas it only cracked the Top 10 twice before: in October 2016 (#10) and January 2018 (#9). The G80 also smashes its monthly volume record from 5.972 in December 2015 to 7.582 this month. No other Top 10 model outpaces the market, with the Kia Seltos the most popular recent launch at #10.

Further down, the Samsung XM3 (aka Renault Arkana) is down 5 spots on April but still remains strong with over 5.000 sales for the month while the Genesis GV80 edges down to #14 but manages to maintain itself at a high level above 4.000 registrations. Other recent launches are losing steam this month except the Renault Samsung Captur up 15 spots on its inaugural month in April to crack the Top 40. The Kia K7 (+108.4%), Samsung QM6 (+71.3%) and Kia Mohave (+1232.6%) also shine further down. The foreign models ranking is unusually stable, with the Mercedes E-Class (-16.6%), BMW 5 Series (+25.7%), VW Tiguan and Audi A6 in the lead just like in April. The Mercedes CLS rounds out the Top 5, with the German carmaker also placing the C-Class, A-Class and S-Class in the Top 8. The Mini Hatch and Porsche Cayenne slip into the Top 10 this month.

Previous month: South Korea April 2020: Second solid market uptick (+7%) confirms post-COVID recovery, Genesis smashes record

One year ago: South Korea May 2019: New generation lifts Hyundai Sonata to first pole position in 3.5 years

Full May 2020 Top 30 All-brands, Top 56 All local models and Top 10 foreign models below.

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