For the first time in nearly a decade, Korea saw a surge in automobile exports showing double-digit growth in the first half of 2021. Vehicles shipped to North America, meanwhile, were up 40 percent over 2020, to nearly $11 billion. 

This strong growth in exports signals a total reversal of the economic impact of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic that resulted in sharp declines only a year ago—when exports plummeted by 40 percent in June 2020. 

Much of this increase was attributed to the anticipated rebound from the global pandemic, which resulted in both a softening of demand and in the global scarcity of computer chips needed to run a variety of systems inside the vehicles. 

In addition to the pandemic rebound, the Korean Ministry of Trade noted that much of this strong growth is due to increased sales in hybrid and electric vehicles worldwide. Hybrid vehicles manufactured by Korea automobile companies were up more than 63 percent from one year ago, while the still young electric vehicle market was up 14 percent during the same one-year period. The Trade Ministry also attributed the growth in interest in premium models.

Korea automobile manufacturers have been seen as technology leaders in both fuel-efficiency and electric vehicles. Long-term investments in cutting edge technologies have paid off in the sales growth and the quick rebound following last year’s pandemic related decline. 

Hyundai Motor, the largest Korean manufacturer, experienced a 33 percent increase in exports over last year, while Kia Corporation gained more than 28 percent, led by its electric vehicles. GM Korea, meanwhile, saw significant demand for its Trailblazer SUV, increasing exports by more than 27 percent, while SsangYong Motors’ exports saw increases of six times last year’s sales. 

Taking all of the exports together, automobile exports from Korea soared to nearly 1,050,000 vehicles in the first half of this year, up from 820,000 one year ago. That resulted in an increase of 50 percent in dollar value, worth $23.6 billion.