Seoul, Jan 4 (IANS) Auto sales in South Korea by five domestic car manufacturers hit a 19-year high in 2015 due to the growing demand for cars made by the country’s top two automakers — Hyundai and Kia, industry data revealed on Monday.

Local car sales by Hyundai, Kia, GM Korea, Renault Samsung and Ssangyong reached 1,579,706 units in 2015, up 8.7 percent from a year earlier. The figure marked the largest since 1996, Xinhua news agency reported.

Car exports shed 0.8 percent from a year earlier to 7,431,534 units in 2015, but global car sales by the five firms rose 0.7 percent to 9,011,240 units thanks to strong demand in the local market.

Combined global car sales of Hyundai and its affiliate Kia Motors reached 8,015,745 units last year, topping the 8 million unit level for two straight years.

Demand in the domestic car market for Hyundai’s Sonata and Avante surpassed 100,000 last year, becoming the most popular model among local products.

Local car sales by GM Korea reached 158,404 units in 2015, marking the largest yearly sales since it was launched in 2002.