Mercedes-Benz passes BMW as No. 1 import

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Mercedes-Benz passes BMW as No. 1 import

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Mercedes-Benz was the most popular imported car in September, beating out its biggest Korean rival BMW for the first time since December 2011.

According to a report yesterday by the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association (Kaida), sales of imported cars rose 3.6 percent, from 16,442 in August to 17,072 last month.

Import sales in the first half of the year totaled 94,263, a 26.5 percent increase from 74,487 during the same period in 2013.

The report said Mercedes-Benz sold 3,538 cars in September, compared to 3,303 for BMW. Audi was in third place with 2,349, followed by Volkswagen with 2,289.

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Mercedes-Benz had a 20.78 percent share of the import market, led by the sale of 610 E220 CDI sedans. The E250 CDI 4MATIC was the fourth most popular model in September, with 419 sold and the C220 BlueTec was seventh at 342.

“Introducing a series of new compact segments had an impact on sales,” said a spokesman for Mercedes-Benz Korea. “Vehicles that offer high fuel efficiency, such as the new C-class sedan, attracted drivers.”

Mercedes-Benz may have ranked No. 1 in total sales last month, but Volkswagen took the top spot for single models in September. Its compact sports utility vehicle (SUV) Tiguan 2.0 TDI Blue Motion sold 719 units.

The popularity of the Tiguan and Mercedes-Benz’s C-class and E-class shows the changing preference of Korean consumers. While consumers in the past were more focused on style and price, consumers today are more interested in fuel economy.

Volkswagen’s compact SUV Tiguan, with a price tag of 38.4 million won ($35,900), has a fuel economy of 13.8 kilometers per liter (32 miles per gallon), while the Mercedes-Benz E220 CDI starts at 60 million won and averages 16.3 kilometers per liter.

As imported brands enjoy steady sales growth in the local market, Korean automakers continue to struggle.

According to Hyundai Motor, its total sales last month were 263,970 units, a decrease of 2.1 percent compared to August. Kia Motors, which is second in market share, was even worse, selling 193,671 units, a 9.7 percent drop.

This is the first time in 13 months that the Korean automaker has seen a month-on-month sales decline.

The September decline was caused by shrinking demand for the midsize Sonata LF. In January, the company sold 13,000 units, compared to 4,353 last month, according to industry sources.

Although cheaper and smaller, the fuel economy of the Sonata LF is far worse than for imports. The average fuel economy for the 2.0 CVVL Sonata LF is 12.1 kilometers per liter.

“Many potential buyers who were waiting for the Sonata might have been disappointed in its fuel economy,” said analyst Lim Dong-heon. “More drivers are looking for a car with a diesel engine to save money, but since Hyundai and Kia Motors are preparing diesel models, they will soon get better in the domestic market.”

BY KWON SANG-SOO [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]


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