Import cars still seeing huge growth

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Import cars still seeing huge growth

Imported car sales are continuing to grow and domestic automakers are recovering sales gradually to defend their home turf.

The Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association (Kaida) said yesterday that a total of 15,314 foreign-made vehicles were sold last month, up 14.2 percent from a year ago. However, this was down 8.4 percent from April, when foreign-made vehicles hit a monthly sales record of 16,712 units.

“The decline of new car registrations in May is due to less working days and shortfalls in supply for some brands that couldn’t meet the demand,” said Kaida Executive Director Yoon Dae-sung.

But sales held a rapid growth pace, with sales of imports reaching 76,460 units in the first five months of the year, up 23.9 percent from a year ago.

BMW kept its place as the best-selling import brand in May with 3,212 units sold, followed by fellow German brands Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and Audi.

But the best-selling model wasn’t the BMW 5 Series or the Mercedes-Benz E-Class, both of which previously took the top spot. Instead, Volkswagen’s popular sport utility vehicle Tiguan 2.0 TDI BlueMotion wore the crown for the month, followed by its midsize sedan Passat 2.0 TDI and Audi’s A6 2.0 TDI.

European cars accounted for 81.8 percent of total foreign-vehicle sales last month, thanks to the variety of diesel models made there, followed by Japanese and U.S. cars.

Although the speed of their growth is not matching that of imports, domestic automakers are slowly recovering their sales compared to a year ago, thanks to newly released models.

Five local automakers sold a total of 121,239 vehicles in May, up 1.8 percent from a year ago. The figure represents a 6.8 percent decline from April, but in the first five months, Korean autos sold a total of 586,147 units, up 4.8 percent from a year earlier.

Kia Motors is the only automaker that didn’t post growth last month, as its domestic sales plunged 8.2 percent to 36,252 units. But the No. 2 automaker said that it will recover from the slump in the second half when it expects sales of its Carnival minivan to increase and when the new Sorento SUV will be released.

Renault Samsung Motors, the Korean unit of French automaker Renault, saw the biggest increase in domestic sales last month, up 60.8 percent year-on-year to 7,400 units, beating Ssangyong Motor to take the No. 4 position.

The automaker, which sold the fewest vehicles of all domestic makers last year, became popular with its SM3 Neo compact.

In May, Hyundai Motor’s midsize sedan Sonata was the best-selling Korean car with 10,324 units sold.

Nine of the 10 best-sellers in May were either from Hyundai or Kia. GM Korea’s Chevrolet Spark was the only exception after the city car was ranked No. 7 in the top 10 models.

Industry insiders said that Korean automakers will have tough third-quarter sales as they are set to begin wage negotiations with their labor unions and must continue to compete with new imported models.


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

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