S. Korean car sales up 25 pct in August

SEOUL, Sept. 2 (Yonhap) -- South Korean auto sales jumped 25.1 percent in August from a year earlier due to strong sales both at home and abroad, data showed Monday.

The combined sales of five carmakers in the country led by industry leader Hyundai Motor Co. came in at 689,870 units last month, compared with 551,632 vehicles sold a year ago, according to the data released by the five carmakers.

The other four automakers are Hyundai's smaller sister company Kia Motors Corp., GM Korea Co., Renault Samsung Motors Co. and Ssangyong Motor Co.

The data showed that the combined domestic sales increased 29 percent on-year to 110,338 units while overseas sales jumped 24.3 percent to 579,532 units.

Hyundai said it sold 381,429 vehicles in August, up 29.1 percent from 295,449 units in the same month in 2012.

The strong sales performance came despite Hyundai's 46,000 unionized workers walking off the job for several hours. It was their seventh partial strike since August to demand a wage hike and other fringe benefits.

Still, leaders of the union and management resumed negotiations on Monday to narrow their differences over the union's demands. They include a special bonus amounting to 30 percent of the company's net profit last year, which was 9 trillion won (US$8 billion).

The union is also asking for a hike of 130,000 won in basic pay and a one-year extension of the retirement age to 61. In addition, they want an allowance of 10 million won each for workers' children who choose to seek employment instead of going to college.

Also on Monday, about 30,000 union members of Kia Motors Corp. staged a partial strike to press for a similar pay hike and other benefits.

Hyundai and Kia, which together form the world's fifth-largest automaker, have long been plagued by labor disputes.

Kia said it sold 224,247 vehicles in August, up 17.5 percent from 190,870 units in 2012.

GM Korea., the local unit of U.S. automaker General Motors Co., said that its sales jumped 36.8 percent on-year to 61,773 vehicles.

"The competitive designs, powertrains, technologies, convenience and above all the 'safety' of our Chevrolet lineup drove momentum for August," said Marc J. Comeau, GM Korea vice president handling sales, service and marketing, according to the carmaker.

Last month, the automaker unveiled the electric version of the compact Chevrolet Spark. The vehicle powered by rechargeable battery packs is scheduled to hit local showrooms in October.

The zero-emission car can travel 135 kilometers on a single charge.

Meanwhile, Ssangyong Motor, the local unit of Indian sport utility vehicle maker Mahindra