The number of imported cars on South Korean roads jumped more than two-fold in the last five years, reflecting the steady rise in demand for foreign brands among local consumers, industry data showed Tuesday.
According to the numbers released by the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association, the country had 19,400,864 registered vehicles as of late 2013, of which 4.7 percent or 904,314 were foreign-made.
Last year alone, sales of foreign nameplates reached a record 156,497 units, up 19.6 percent from the year before.
By country of origin, 66.9 percent were European manufactured cars, with Japanese and U.S. made cars accounting for 21.5 percent and 10.7 percent of the total for imported automobiles.
KAMA said the latest numbers represent a sharp increase from just five years earlier when imports accounted for just 2.1 percent of the 12,483,809 vehicles registered in the country. In 2009, there were 357,589 foreign cars in the country.
Industry watchers attributed the share increase to effective marketing strategies by foreign brands.
Foreign carmakers started introducing affordable cars with sticker prices in the 20 million won ($18,600) to 30 million won range from 2008 onwards and offering favorable payment programs, such as "deferred installment" plans that made cars easier to buy.
Reflecting this, sales of German cars led by Volkswagen AG have made considerable headway in South Korea. German carmakers' strength in diesel-engine cars also played a role in strong sales, as spikes in gasoline prices caused people to become more conscious of fuel efficiency.
Industry watchers say the sales of foreign cars are expected to go up at least 10 percent on-year to around 174,000 units in 2014, which will likely further increase their market presence.
"With so many models on offer, driving a foreign-made car is no longer reserved for the rich," said one industry official, who pointed out that many people's desire to own "distinct" cars that are not made by local original equipment manufacturers such as Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. is playing a part in pushing up sales. (Yonhap News)