SEOUL, Dec. 3 (Korea Bizwire) — Sales of imported vehicles in South Korea rose 7.5 percent in November from a year earlier due to strong demand for German cars, an industry association said Thursday.
The number of newly registered foreign vehicles climbed to 27,436 units last month from 25,514 a year earlier despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA) said in a statement.
From January to November, foreign carmakers sold 243,440 autos, up 13 percent from 214,780 in the same period of last year, KAIDA said.
The three bestselling models last month were the Mercedes-Benz E 250 sedan, Volkswagen Tiguan 2.0 TDI SUV and Mercedes-Benz E 350 4MATIC sedan, the statement said.
In the first 11 months, German brands — Audi-Volkswagen Korea, BMW Group Korea and Mercedes-Benz Korea — sold 164,349 units, up 29 percent from 127,921 in the year-ago period, it said.
Seven out of 10 imported vehicles sold in Asia’s fourth-biggest economy last month were from Germany.
But Japanese brands — Toyota Motor Corp. and its luxury brand Lexus, Honda Motor Co. and Nissan Motor Co. and its premium brand Infiniti — continued to struggle over a protracted trade spat between Seoul and Tokyo despite aggressive marketing.
Their combined sales plunged 45 percent to 18,250 units in the January-November period from 32,991 a year earlier.
Nissan is set to withdraw its operations from South Korea by December due to the worsening business environment amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
In July last year, Japan tightened regulations on exports to South Korea of three high-tech materials critical for the production of semiconductors and displays.
In August 2019, it removed South Korea from its list of countries given preferential treatment in trade procedures.
Seoul views Tokyo’s moves as retaliation against 2018 Supreme Court rulings here ordering Japanese companies to compensate Korean victims of forced labor during Japan’s 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
Imported brands accounted for 18.27 percent of the Korean passenger vehicle market in October, up from 16.09 percent a year ago. Their market share for November will be available next month, KAIDA said.