Top 9 Korean Car Brands [As of 2024]

The history of the South Korean automobile industry can be traced back to 1955 when Choi Mu-Seong, a businessman, built the first Korean-made vehicle by assembling military jeep parts discarded by the US military. This vehicle, named “Sibal,” marked the beginning of the country’s journey in car manufacturing. 

Today, South Korea is the fifth-largest producer of passenger cars and the fourth-largest automobile exporter by volume. The country produces over 4.6 million units and exports 2.7 million units annually. [1]

Interestingly, the top 10 registered models in South Korea are dominated by domestic car brands. Below, we feature the top Korean car brands that have gained international acclaim and set new benchmarks in design, safety, and environmental sustainability. [2] 

Did you know?

The South Korean automobile industry is undergoing significant changes. The government plans to produce 6.3 million EVs and build 1,200 refueling stations by 2040.

Plus, South Korea’s autonomous vehicle market is expected to exceed $19 billion by 2035, with a growth rate of about 40% per year. The used car market is projected to be even larger, reaching $34.14 billion by 2033. [3][4]

5. Ioniq

Ioniq 6 

Founded in 2020
Parent: Hyundai Motor Company
Production Output: 47,000 units (2023) 

Ioniq is a division of Hyundai’s electric vehicle lineup launched to spearhead the company’s effort in the rapidly expanding EV industry. The name “Ioniq” comes from two words: “Ion,” an electrically charged particle, and “unique.”

The first model under the Ioniq brand, Ioniq 5, was launched in February 2021. It is built on Hyundai’s electric-global modular platform and features a unique retro-futuristic design inspired by Hyundai’s 1974 Pony Coupe concept. In 2022, the Ioniq 5 became the best-selling vehicle in South Korea, recording 27,399 unit sales. 

The second vehicle under this sub-brand, the Ioniq 6, is a sleek, aerodynamic sedan inspired by Hyundai’s Prophecy concept car. In 2023, a total of 12,999 Ioniq 6 units were sold worldwide, with 4,681 of those sales occurring in the fourth quarter alone.

Hyundai set a new record in December 2023 by selling 3,261 Ioniq 5 electric SUVs, up 90% compared to the same period in 2022. Meanwhile, sales of Ioniq 6 reached 2,056 for the same month. 

In 2023, Hyundai sold a total of 33,918 Ioniq 5 electric SUVs, compared to 22,982 in 2022. Their dedicated battery electric Ioniq models, including the Ioniq 5 and 6, accounted for more than 60% of their total EV sales. [5]

In March 2024, Hyundai announced that it had sold over 262,000 units of the Ioniq 5 worldwide. Of these, 66,938 were sold in South Korea, 66,481 in the United States, and 33,721 in Germany. The company expects to achieve double-digit profit margins and two million EV sales by 2030. [6][7]

4. Genesis 

Genesis G80

Founded in 2015
Parent: Hyundai Motor Company
Production Output: 47,000 units (2023) 

Genesis is a luxury vehicle division of Hyundai Motor Group. It was launched to compete with established luxury brands like Mercedes-Benz, BMW, and Lexus. 

Genesis was formed to redefine luxury through a blend of intricate design, innovative technology, and a customer-centric approach. Since its inception, the company has expanded its lineup to include SUVs, sedans, and EVs, aiming to provide a comprehensive range of luxury options. 

In 2020, Genesis achieved a significant milestone by selling more than 100,000 vehicles in a year. They sold 132,450 units in 2020, 201,415 in 2021, and 215,128 in 2022.

In September 2023, the company announced it had crossed one million sales worldwide, reaching exactly 1,008,804 units. Of these, 690,177 were sold in Korea and 318,627 overseas. In 2023, Genesis sold approximately 126,000 vehicles in South Korea and 68,798 in the USA. [8]

Their best-selling model is the Genesis G80, with 390,738 units sold globally, including the Electrified G80 models. [9]

The company aims to have a fully electric vehicle lineup by 2030 and a sustainable production chain by 2035.

3. KG Mobility

Torres Electric SUV 

Established in 1954  
Parent: KG Group
Production Output: 116,099 units (2023)
Annual Revenue: $2.80 billion (2023)

KG Mobility, formerly known as SsangYong Motors, specializes in manufacturing SUVs and off-road vehicles. Recently, the brand has undergone significant transformations to enhance its competitiveness in the global market. 

In 2022, KG Group, a South Korean chemical and steel conglomerate, acquired SsangYong Motors and rebranded it as KG Mobility in 2023. The company has been performing well since the acquisition.

In the fiscal year 2023, KG Mobility achieved record sales of 116,099 units, with 63,345 sold in the domestic South Korean market. [10]

They generated a revenue of $2.80 billion, an operating profit of $3.70 million, and a net profit of $888,300. The company saw positive operating performance for the first time in 16 years since 2007. [11]

Their best-selling vehicle was the Torres SUV, with 44,798 units sold, followed by the Rexton Sports KHAN with 16,766 units sold.

KG Group plans to increase sales of its electric mid-sized SUV, the Torres EVX. At the end of 2023, they partnered with BYD to develop electric and hybrid vehicles, including building a battery pack factory in Korea. [12]

2. Kia Motors

Founded in 1944
Ownership: Hyundai (33.88%), National Pension Service (6.91%)
Production Output: 3,100,000+ units (2023)
Annual Revenue: $75.81 billion (2023)

Kia is a rapidly growing automobile company in the world. It merged with Hyundai in 1998, and this partnership enabled Kia to benefit from shared technology, research, and development resources, substantially boosting its growth and innovation capabilities. 

Today, Kia aims to strengthen its global presence by offering a wide range of vehicles, from compact cars to luxury SUVs.

In 2023, the company sold 565,826 vehicles in South Korea and exported 1,050,489 vehicles worldwide. Their best-selling model in the domestic market was the Sorento, with 85,811 units sold, followed by the Carnival with 69,857 units and the Sportage with 69,749 units. Internationally, the Niro and Sportage were the highest-selling models, with 138,571 and 136,290 units sold, respectively. [13]

In the same year, Kia generated $75.81 billion in annual revenue, up from $66.53 billion in 2022 and $60.26 billion in 2021. They also significantly reduced their debt-to-equity ratio from 19% in 2022 to 8.2% in 2023. [14]

In Q4 2023, Kia achieved record sales of 143,000 electrified vehicles, including all-electric, plug-in hybrid, and hybrid models, marking an 18.1% increase from the previous year. [15]

Kia plans to expand its electric vehicle lineup, targeting a 6.6% global EV market share by 2025. Their long-term goal is to achieve carbon neutrality by 2045 and expand mobility services.

1. Hyundai Motor Company

Founded in 1967
Parent: Hyundai Motor Group
Production Output: 4,216,000+ units (2023)
Annual Revenue: $123.58 billion (2023)

Founded in 1967, Hyundai Motor Company quickly transitioned from assembling Ford Cortinas to manufacturing its own models. In 1975, they introduced the Pony, South Korea’s first mass-produced car, which laid the foundation for the company’s future growth. 

The launch of the Hyundai Excel in the United States in 1986 was a major milestone for Hyundai, marking its significant presence in the global market. Today, the company produces more than 4 million vehicles worldwide. 

Besides EVs, Hyundai is also focusing on fuel cell technology. In 2013, they launched the world’s first commercially mass-produced hydrogen fuel cell vehicle, the ix35 Fuel Cell. In 2018, they unveiled Hyundai Nexo, the first hydrogen fuel cell-powered crossover SUV. [16]

In 2023, Hyundai achieved global sales of 4,216,680 vehicles, up 6.9% from the previous year. Of these, 762,077 vehicles were sold in South Korea, a 10.6% increase from the previous year, while 3,454,603 units were sold overseas, a 6.2% increase year-on-year. [17]

The company plans to increase its profit margin (to more than 8 percent) by strengthening its global electric vehicle production infrastructure and improving its product mix with more SUVs and luxury models. 

Foreign Companies Manufacturing in South Korea

6. Renault Korea

Established in 1994 as Samsung Motors
Ownership: Renault (52.8%), Geely (34%), Samsung Card (13.1%)
Production Output: 168,600+ units (2022)
Annual Revenue: $3.57 billion (2022)

As a subsidiary of the French automaker Renault, this company combines European design and technology with Korean manufacturing excellence.

The brand’s first major success came in 1998 with the launch of the SM5 sedan in the domestic market. Since then, they have produced several popular models, such as the QM3 and QM6 SUVs.

In 2022, the company sold 52,621 vehicles, capturing a 3.2% market share in South Korea. With 3,638 employees, their annual revenue stood at $3.57 billion, while operating income was approximately $140 million. [18]

In 2023, Renault Korea Motors announced plans to open an R&D facility for EVs in the southern port city of Busan. They also plan to invest $523 million by 2027 to transform Busan into an eco-friendly car manufacturing hub. [19]

7. GM Korea 

Chevrolet Trax

Founded in 2002
Parent: General Motors
Production Output: 468,000+ units (2023)

Established in 2002, GM Korea continues to influence both the domestic and international markets. It is currently the third-largest automobile company in South Korea, selling Chevrolet, Cadillac, and Buick brands.

Between 2014 and 2021, their annual sales fell by more than 60%, from over 600,000 vehicles to less than 230,000. However, the company turned things around in 2023.

In 2023, GM Korea sold 468,059 vehicles, a 76.6% increase from 2022 and their highest annual sales since 2017. Of these, 429,304 vehicles were sold overseas, an 88.5% increase from 2022. This was their record sales outside Korea since 2015. The Chevrolet Trailblazer and Chevrolet Trax Crossover were the top-selling models worldwide. [20]

In 2024, the company unveiled its plan to launch four new vehicles to expand its presence. This includes the Cadillac Lyriq all-electric sports utility vehicle, the Cadillac XT4, the Chevrolet Colorado, and the Chevrolet Equinox EV. [21]

Rising Automotive Startups in South Korea 

8. Bitsensing Inc

Founded in 2018
Total Funding: $21.3 million

Bitsensing aims to revolutionize the automotive industry with its advanced radar sensor technology. It incorporates AI and machine learning models to enhance the processing and interpretation of radar data, resulting in smarter and more responsive systems. 

Their advanced radar solutions, developed for autonomous driving and ADAS, offer high-resolution imaging, real-time processing, and robust performance in all weather conditions. These technologies enhance vehicle safety by accurately detecting pedestrians, objects, and other vehicles.

To date, the company has raised $21.3 million through six funding rounds, with the latest round occurring in September 2022. It is backed by 13 investors, including AF WPartners, LB Investment, and SJ Investment Partners. [22]

9. EVAR

EVAR

Founded in 2018
Total Funding: $21 million

EVAR develops electric vehicle charging technology, addressing the challenges of EV charging infrastructure and promoting the adoption of electric vehicles. They develop automatic recharging robots that identify charge-requested vehicles (through license plates) and detect potential hazards. 

The company has created a network of smart charging stations for public and commercial use. These stations support fast charging, equipped with user-friendly interfaces, payment systems, and real-time monitoring capabilities. They can be integrated with renewable energy sources and smart grids. 

EVAR has deployed over 20,000 slow chargers across South Korea and is looking to expand to other markets, such as Europe and North America. 

They have raised $21 million through six funding rounds. In 2023, they closed their Series B round, raising $16  million from KDB Industrial Bank and other prominent investors, including ORIX of Japan, Hanwha Investment & Securities, and Samsung Securities-SBI Investment. [23]

Read More 

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Sources Cited and Additional References

  1. Vehicle Manufacturing, Automotive industry in South Korea – statistics & facts, Statista
  2. Vehicles & Road Traffic, Market share of the top six domestic car manufacturers in South Korea in 2023, based on sales volume, Statista
  3. Industry Focus, Korea’s future car industry, continual growth by actively responding to domestic and global changes, InvestKorea
  4. Automotive & Transportation, South Korea used car market size and share, Spherical Insights
  5. Corporate information, Hyundai Motor reports June 2023 global sales, Hyundai
  6. News Release, Hyundai has sold 262,000 Ioniq 5 EVs so far, Arenaev
  7. William Stopford, Hyundai aiming for 2 million annual electric car sales by 2030, Car Expert
  8. News Release, Genesis marks a historic milestone with one million car sales, Genesis Motor Europe
  9. Genesis Motor America, Genesis drives past one million global vehicle sales, PR Newswire
  10. Financial Reports, 2023 Q1 consolidated financial statements, KG Mobility
  11. Accounts’ review report, Separate interim financial statements for the three months ended March 31, 2023, KG Mobility
  12. News Release, KG Mobility signs agreement with BYD to develop electric and hybrid vehicles, Car&Bike
  13. Sales Results, Sales by region and model, Kia
  14. Financial Highlights, Balance sheet and Income statement, Kia
  15. News Release, Kia announces 2023 fourth-quarter business results, Kia News Center
  16. Corporate Newsroom, Hyundai Motor reveals vision for hydrogen energy and software solutions beyond mobility at CES 2024, Hyundai
  17. Corporate Newsroom, Hyundai Motor reports 2023 global sales and 2024 targets, Hyundai
  18. Investor Relations, Earnings report full-year 2022, Renault Group
  19. Nan-Sae Bin, Renault to invest $523 mn to build green car hub in Korea, The Korea Economic Daily Global Edition
  20. Pressroom, GM’s Korean operations achieve the highest annual sales since 2017, selling 468,059 vehicles, Chevrolet
  21. Moon Joon-hyun, GM Korea unveils 2024 roadmap with four new vehicles, The Korea Herald 
  22. Company Highlights, Bitsensing financials and funding, Crunchbase
  23. Richard Park, Evar secures $ 16 million in Series B investment for EV charging solution, attracts foreign backing, KoreaTechDesk
Written by
Varun Kumar

I am a professional technology and business research analyst with more than a decade of experience in the field. My main areas of expertise include software technologies, business strategies, competitive analysis, and staying up-to-date with market trends.

I hold a Master's degree in computer science from GGSIPU University. If you'd like to learn more about my latest projects and insights, please don't hesitate to reach out to me via email at [email protected].

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