Foreign automakers race past sales milestone
Imported car sales hit a new annual sales record last year with more than 130,000 sold here, according to data from the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association (Kaida).
Although December sales were down 14.5 percent from November, Kaida said yesterday the new record stood at 130,858 units for the year as a whole, up 24.6 percent from 2011. This is the highest number since Korea opened its market to foreign auto brands in 1987.
Such growth contrasts with last year’s domestic sales of Korea’s five automakers, including Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors, which fell 4 percent on-year to 1.4 million units. This is the first time since 2008 that they have marked negative growth.
“Increased sales of diesels and small cars also helped,” said Yoon Dae-sung, an executive director at Kaida.
By country, Germany dominated Korea’s imported car market. Brands from the country owned 63.9 percent of the market, followed by Japanese automakers (18.3 percent) and U.S. brands (7.4 percent).
BMW was again the best-selling foreign auto brand in Korea. The German automaker sold 28,152 units last year, up 20.9 percent from 2011. It wrapped up the year with a 21.51 percent market share, taking the best-selling crown for the fourth consecutive year.
Mercedes-Benz was second in the 2012 sales rankings with 20,389 units sold, followed by Volkswagen (18,359) and Audi (15,126). Toyota was the best non-German brand in sales after 10.759 units were bought by Koreans, more than double what it achieved in 2011.
Eight of the 10 best-selling models were German, with Toyota’s Camry (No. 2) and Prius (No. 9) the only exceptions.
BMW’s 520d was the best-selling foreign model with 7,485 units newly registered. Mercedes-Benz’s E300 dropped from No. 1 to No. 3 with 5,574 units sold.
As consumers began paying more attention to fuel economy amid a sluggish economy, sales of models with engine displacements under 2,000 cubic centimeters (2 liters) accounted for 49.4 percent of all sales. Diesels ate up 50.9 percent of total sales, with gas-powered models taking a 44.2 percent share and hybrids 4.8 percent.
Kaida predicted earlier that this year’s imported car sales growth would be more modest than last year due to weakened domestic demand affected by economic uncertainties both at home and abroad. The business group forecast that 143,000 foreign-branded cars would be sold here this year, up about 8 percent from last year.
Industry insiders speculate that sales may be slow in the early phase of this year even though a number of new models are heading to Korea.
Prices of imported cars have grown after a temporary consumption tax cut expired at the beginning of this year. Mercedes-Benz Korea said last week that its models’ retail prices will go up by an average of 0.9 percent, while Toyota Korea said its Lexus models will be 0.5 percent to 1.4 percent more expensive.
By Joo Kyung-don [firstname.lastname@example.org]