Hyundai and Kia posted firm global sales in March as strong overseas demand continued to mitigate the impact of declines in their home market of South Korea
Hyundai's global vehicle sales grew 17 percent to 382,659, despite a 9 percent fall in domestic sales to 56,022. Overseas demand rose 24 percent to 326,637.
At Kia, global sales rose 7 percent to 240,457, even as domestic sales declined 9 percent.
North America is helping the automakers offset weaker demand elsewhere, said Eric Choi, an analyst at Shinhan Investment.
"The U.S. market is faring better than expected, while the European market is not doing well, but Hyundai and Kia are growing in that sluggish market. Their sales growth will continue in the second quarter," Choi said.
Hyundai has said it expects its U.S. sales in March to hit a monthly record, surpassing 65,000, which would mark at least a 5 percent rise from last year. The U.S. auto market is expected to cap the best quarter in four years in March.
New compacts for Europe
Stiffer competition could slow Hyundai and Kia in the United States as Japanese rivals fight back with new models, but analysts expect the momentum to stay steady in Europe with the launch of Hyundai's new i30 compact car in March and Kia's planned rollout of the new Cee'd compact model in the second quarter.
Hyundai and Kia aim to revive sales in their home market with new model launches, even as a free trade deal between the United States and South Korea, which went into effect on March 15, makes U.S.-made cars more price-competitive.
South Korea's free trade pact with the European Union went into effect last year.
Sources: Reuters, Bloomberg, Automotive News Europe