Korea’s love affair with imported cars just grows

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Korea’s love affair with imported cars just grows

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The popularity of imported cars continues to grow and last month their sales reached a record high, according to data from the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association (Kaida).

Kaida, a business group representing foreign auto brands, said yesterday that sales of imports in March reached 15,733 units, beating the previous monthly record of 14,953 units last July. The latest sales record also represents a 30.4 percent year-on-year increase and a 13.5 percent increase from February, when 13,852 units were sold.

“As car sales enter the peak season, new import car registrations in March increased after aggressive promotions and new model releases from automakers,” said Yoon Dae-sung, executive director at Kaida.

Furthermore, imported car sales in the first quarter also set a new record of 44,434 units, up 27.1 percent from last year’s 34,964 units.

By brand, BMW maintained its No. 1 status as the best-selling foreign brand after it sold 10,073 units in the first three months of the year, up 14.8 percent from a year earlier. However, its market share was down 2.42 percentage points to 22.67 percent.

BMW was followed by fellow German auto brands Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen and Audi, and Ford managed to take the No. 5 slot.

Infiniti, the luxury arm of Japanese automaker Nissan, had impressive year-on-year sales growth of 149.6 percent after selling 654 units in the first quarter, thanks to the popularity of its midsize Q50 sedan.

Surprisingly, the import with the top increase in sales in the first quarter was ultra luxury brand Bentley, which sold 83 units in the January-March period, up 196.4 percent from a year earlier. Sales of Bentley’s Flying Spur, which costs more than 280 million won ($265,150), rose sharply.

In contrast, Citroen, a sister brand of France’s Peugeot, saw sales plunge 53.5 percent year-on-year to 46 units in the first quarter, while American premium brand Cadillac also had a 49.4 percent year-on-year decrease in the first three months after selling only 41 units.

The best-selling model in the first quarter was BMW’s 520d, which sold 2,238 units, followed by Volkswagen’s Tiguan 2.0 TDI BlueMotion and Mercedes-Benz’s E220 CDI. Of the top 10 best-selling models in the first quarter, eight were from German brands. The Ford Explorer SUV and Lexus ES300h, a hybrid midsize sedan, were the only non-German models and were ranked No. 9 and No. 10, respectively.

Kaida data showed that more consumers purchased diesel cars. Among imported cars sold in this first quarter, 69.4 percent were diesels, up 7.5 percentage points from a year ago. Gasoline-fueled cars accounted for 27.7 percent of sales, down 7.4 percentage points from a year earlier.

BY JOO KYUNG-DON [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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