SEOUL, Aug. 5 (Korea Bizwire) — Imported vehicle sales in South Korea fell 5.2 percent in July due to a slump in sales of Japanese vehicles amid trade tensions with Japan, industry data showed Wednesday.
The number of newly registered foreign vehicles stood at 19,453 last month, down from 20,518 a year earlier, according to the data from the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA).
“Japan’s export restrictions (against South Korea) affected vehicle sales of Japanese carmakers in Korea last month,” a KAIDA spokesman said.
On July 4, Japan tightened exports of three key materials used in chips and display panels to South Korea in an apparent retaliation over a Seoul court’s ruling that ordered Japanese companies to provide compensation for wartime forced labor.
The move triggered a nationwide campaign in Korea against travel to Japan and the use of Japanese products. The anti-Japan sentiment among Koreans is expected to deepen unless Tokyo lifts its export curbs against Seoul.
Feeling the pinch of the escalating boycott of Japanese goods, Toyota Motor Corp.’s vehicle sales plunged 32 percent to 865 from 1,270 a year ago.
Honda Motor Co.’s declined 34 percent to 468 from 704 and Nissan Motor Co.’s were down 35 percent to 228 from 351 during the same period, the data showed.
The three best-selling models were the Mercedes-Benz E 300 sedan, the Mercedes-Benz E 300 4MATIC sedan and the Lexus ES300h sedan, KAIDA said.
The portion of German vehicles in the imported passenger vehicle market rose to 62 percent last month from 59 percent a year earlier, it said.
In its extended economic retaliatory measures, Japan on Friday removed South Korea from its “whitelist” of trusted trading partners. Japanese vehicle sales in Korea are expected to fall further here, industry officials said.
From January to July, imported car sales declined 20 percent to 128,767 units from 160,627 in the same period of last year, it said.
Imported cars accounted for 14.91 percent of all local passenger car sales in the first six months, down from 17.75 percent a year ago, KAIDA said.