After making inroads this year, foreign automakers reload for 2015

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After making inroads this year, foreign automakers reload for 2015

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The Fiat Cinquecento 500X crossover and BMW’s 2 Series Active Tourer are two weapons in the arsenals of foreign automakers. Provided by the companies

This was a tough year for Korean automakers. As 2014 draws to a close, there is a chance the domestic market share of Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors might slip below 70 percent for the first time in the face of tough competition from imports.

According to a report by the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association last week, the two largest Korean automakers had a combined a market share of 69.4 percent through November, having lost ground steadily since 2009. Imports had 14 percent of the local market.

And it looks like it won’t get any easier in 2015, as foreign automakers are poised to roll out new models to build on their momentum.

BMW has been one of the most popular import brands in Korea. After introducing the X6 xDrive30d in November and 435d xDrive grand coupe in December, the first new offering in 2015 will be the 2 Series Active Tourer, the second model in the new 2 Series after the coupe .

The active tourer is 4.34 meters (14.5 feet) long, 1.8 meters wide and 1.55 meters high, and designed for an urban environment. It offers a four-cylinder turbocharged engine and performance features such as BMW’s Efficient Dynamics package, which includes Dynamic Damper Control with two settings for a smooth ride and superior handling, and BMW Connected Drive.

It also offers convenience options like the Comfort Access system, which makes it possible to open the doors and start the engine without having to use the key.

Next in line will be the i8 plug-in hybrid. Development of the i8 began in 2008 with the launch of Project i, and the company said the model has the appearance and performance of a sports car, with the fuel consumption and emissions of a compact car.

The i8 offers a maximum of 362 horsepower and is rated at 47.6 kilometers per liter (134 miles per gallon) under the EU standard. Consumers who hesitate to purchase an electric car due to a lack of charging stations might be attracted by the i8’s charge-at-home plug-in system. It can be charged using the BMW i Wallbox or the charging cable.

After the i8, BMW will introduce its first all-wheel plug-in hybrid SUV - the X5 eDrive - featuring a TwinPower Turbo 4-cylinder gasoline engine.

Audi Korea, BMW’s fellow German competitor, is expected to sell 27,000 cars in Korea this year, a 34.7 percent jump from 20,044 in 2013, thanks to new models including the RS7 Sportback, A7 55 TDI and A8 sedan.

Audi Korea said last week its goal for next year is 30,000 units, and it plans to introduce seven new models.

Audi’s A1 Sportback small hatchback will be sold in the country for the first time. It has a 1.6-liter turbocharged direct injection, or TDI, engine that delivers 116 horsepower.

Along with the A1, Audi will introduce the A3 Sportback e-tron, a plug-in hybrid rated at 66.7 kilometers per liter of fuel under the EU standard. The five-door A3 packs a 150 horsepower, 1.4-liter turbocharged four-cylinder gasoline engine and a 102 horsepower electric motor. When driven in all-electric mode, the A3 goes from zero to 60 miles per hour in 11 seconds.

Audi also will bring out new versions of the iconic TT, which offers 230 horsepower, along with the best-selling A6 and A7 sedans.

In the first half of next year, Chrysler Korea will introduce the Chrysler 200 midsize sedan, Jeep Renegade 2.0 small SUV and Fiat Cinquecento 500X crossover.

Chrysler Korea said the prices of the models will be decided early next year.

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

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