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Foreign carmakers seek bigger market portion with new models in H2

Riding on the sales momentum of imported cars in South Korea, foreign auto brands are planning to release new models in the second half of this year and to improve after-sales service.

Imported cars have increasingly expanded their presence here, recording a boost in sales in the first five month of this year, industry data showed.

A total of 94,367 units of imported cars were sold, marking a 1.2 percent year-on-year growth between January and May, according to data compiled by the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association.

The top two best-selling imported car brands here, German premium automakers BMW Korea and Mercedes-Benz Korea, continued their race for first place, with both posting increased sales.

A total of 29,940 Mercedes-Benz cars were listed here between January and May, making up 31.7 percent of foreign vehicles, KAIDA said. BMW Korea accounted for 24.9 percent with 23,488 units.

Capitalizing on the sport utility vehicle boom, Mercedes-Benz is expected to introduce a midsize SUV, the new GLC 350e 4MATIC, along with a facelifted model of the new GLA premium compact SUV, the company said.

The new GLC 350e 4MATIC midsize SUV marks the first plug-in hybrid version among D-segment cars. It is also expected to boast the driving performance of sports cars with high fuel efficiency.

BWM Korea, which beat Mercedes-Benz in April and May, will introduce to the new 4 series, the new GT and the new X3 SUV, in an attempt to claim first place this year, the company said.

Jaguar Land Rover Korea, the local importer of the luxury brand cars, is set to roll out the fifth generation all-new Discovery SUV next month, the company said.

Preorders for the all-new Discovery SUV surpassed 500 units in 20 days, from when the automaker unveiled the model during the Seoul Motor Show in April, the company said.

Amid rising sales, the makers of imported cars have been criticized for poor after-sales service, which has pushed them to show efforts to improve by offering more service centers.

BMW Korea currently runs the most number of service centers across the country, standing at 56 service centers, up seven locations from 2015, the company said.

Despite its rank as the top-selling imported car brand in 2016, the number of service centers managed by Mercedes-Benz Korea fell behind BMW, with 51 service centers. Benz operated 40 service centers in 2015, the company said.

In 2016, Mercedes-Benz was crowned the No. 1 foreign automaker, posting sales of 56,343 units, followed by BMW with 48,459 units, according to KAIDA.

“Mercedes-Benz Korea is aiming to hike up the number of service centers to 55 this year. We also plan to boost the number of work bays at service centers to 1,000 from the current 865,” said Mercedes-Benz Korea.

“Narrowing physical proximity to drivers to enhance customer satisfaction is at the top of our agenda.”

The combined sales of Jaguar and Land Rover came to 14,399 units here last year, with sales of Jaguar surpassing 3000 units for the first time, the company said.

To meet the needs of increased drivers, Jaguar Land Rover Korea plans to secure 25 service centers this year, from the current 22, the company said.

By Kim Bo-gyung (