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Title SUV battle is on this summer
Write admin Date 2017-06-19 Hit 164
Amid slowing sales, carmakers try to cash in on SUV fad

Competition among local automakers in the SUV market here is expected to heighten this summer, as sport utility vehicles have become cash cows for automakers amid declining sales worldwide, industry experts said Tuesday.

The first round of the battle between Kia Motors and SsangYong Motor was triggered by the release of SsangYong¡¯s premium large-size SUV, the G4 Rexton, in April.

At the launch event, SsangYong Motor said it would aim to lay claim over the local full-size SUV market, previously led by Kia Motors¡¯ Mohave SUV.

In terms of sales performance, the G4 Rexton has showed to be more preferred than Kia¡¯s Mohave here.

SsangYong Motor sold 2,703 units here in May, while Kia¡¯s Mohave posted sales of 1,783 units, company data showed.

The proportion of SUVs in the local auto market rapidly rose to 24.7 percent in 2016 from 16.7 percent in 2012, according to data compiled by the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association.

In 2017, SUVs are projected to make up 25.2 percent of the auto market.

Sales of SUVs have seen a boost amid slacking sales of local automakers.

Total sales posted by five major local auto companies -- Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors, GM Korea, Renault Samsung Motors and SsangYong Motor -- slid for a third consecutive month in May here, totaling 135,443 units, down 7.1 percent on-year, data from the companies showed.

The upcoming release of Hyundai Motor¡¯s first-ever compact SUV, the Kona, next week is also expected to further ignite competition in the heated small SUV market.

The number of small-size SUVs in Korea rose to 107,295 units last year, up 24 percent from 86,233 units in 2015, the KAMA said.

¡°The compact SUV boom is driven by female drivers who show a strong preference for B-segment vehicles,¡± said Kim Pil-soo, a professor of automotive engineering at Daelim University.

One in two Tivolis were sold to female drivers in 2016, showing a higher female presence than other models.

According to Kim, B-segment cars offer a wider view when driving. They are also easier to park, fuel efficient and come in sophisticated designs, ultimately appealing to female motorists.

The SUV boom here was triggered by SsangYong Motor¡¯s flagship Tivoli compact SUV, which made up 59.7 percent of the small-size SUV market by sales as of last January, retaining the No. 1 spot as the top-selling SUV.

Kia Motors¡¯ Niro, Renault Samsung Motors QM3, GM Korea¡¯s Chevy Trax and the Infiniti Q30S are also competing models in the small-size SUV market.

Eyeing to take over the booming compact SUV market, Hyundai Motor Group Vice Chairman Chung Eui-sun is anticipated to introduce the Kona next week.

By Kim Bo-gyung (lisakim425@heraldcorp.com)
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