Koreans’ car preference shifts back to gasoline

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Koreans’ car preference shifts back to gasoline

The number of newly registered petrol-fueled passenger vehicles in Korea has exceeded 50 percent for the first time in four years, a sign of apparent backlash from local consumers against diesel-powered cars following the Volkswagen emissions scandal.

The number of gasoline-powered cars accounted for 50.2 percent of all passenger vehicles registered between January and June this year, according to industry statistics released Tuesday by the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association. It is the first time gasoline-run passenger vehicles have encompassed over half of all newly registered cars since 2013, when they recorded 52.7 percent.

The portion of diesel-fueled vehicles, on the other hand, hit a four-year low of 36.3 percent in the first half of this year. In 2013, it accounted for 32.4 percent and continued rising after that to 38.6 percent in 2014 and 44.7 percent in 2015.

However, their numbers began to shrink in 2016 after Volkswagen was found a year earlier to have manipulated the emissions levels of its vehicles. Last year, diesel cars made up 39.7 percent of newly registered passenger vehicles.

“Due to Volkswagen’s diesel issue, local consumers are reluctant to buy diesel cars,” said Kim Pil-soo, an automotive engineering professor at Daelim University in Anyang, Gyeonggi. “It won’t be a rosy picture for diesel vehicles in the future.”

While petrol-fueled cars are making a comeback, hybrid vehicles are also filling the gap left by diesel, especially with more Koreans aware of automobiles’ environmental impact. In the first half of this year, hybrids made up 8.4 percent of newly registered passenger vehicles, the highest share since 2012.

Purchases of full electric vehicles were still timid but on the rise. In the first half this year, they accounted for 0.6 percent of newly registered cars, up from 0.3 percent last year and 0.2 percent in 2015.

The effect of the Volkswagen scandal has been most apparent in the import market, where diesel-powered vehicles take center stage.

In 2015, 68.85 percent of newly registered import cars ran on diesel but that shrank to 58.72 percent last year. This year so far, diesel imports have accounted for a mere 50.14 percent, according to Korea Automobile Importers & Distribution Association data.

BY JIN EUN-SOO [jin.eunsoo@joongang.co.kr]
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