Foreign carmakers saw their combined market share in Korea climb by 1 percentage point over the past year.
They captured 6.5 percent of the local market with sales of 42,700 vehicles between January and May, up from 5.5 percent with 34,318 units during the corresponding period of last year.
In May, the foreign carmakers posted 6.8 percent market share by selling 8,777 units, according to the automotive industry.
In particular, their monthly sales surpassed more than 10,000 vehicles for the first time in March, grabbing 7.1 percent of the market.
Amid the robust import car sales over the past few years, the Korea Automotive Research Institute, has predicted that the nation’s import vehicle market is projected to undergo an overall expansion, with total sales surpassing 100,000 units this year.
According to its report, Korea’s import and domestic auto sales will rise by 2.6 percent to post 1.57 million units this year ― exceeding 1.5 million for two consecutive years and reaching the highest point since the record high of 1.62 million vehicles in 2002.
The KARI said sales of import vehicles were projected to soar by 12.1 percent on a year-on-year basis, crossing the 100,000 unit line for the first time.
It cited the stronger won against major currencies and the Korea-EU Free Trade Agreement as main contributors.
Foreign automakers raised the price of some imported models sold in South Korea, starting last January.
According to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association, several major imported brands such as Mercedes-Benz and BMW drove up their price tags by 1 to 5 percent.
Price rises have affected existing models in addition to new releases, which is generating some controversy.
Import car brands argue that this new tag was inevitable due to new upgrades in specifications and functions. However, this newest raise is widely seen as a covetous move to maximize profits and cash in on the growing consumer preference for import cars.
It may also be an attempt to compensate for the impending markdown, which will take place once the Korea-EU FTA comes into effect.
Last year, sales of imported vehicles in South Korea climbed to a record high, indicating a rapidly growing demand here for luxury vehicles, a local traders’ group said Wednesday.
A total of 90,562 imported vehicles were sold here in 2010, up 48.5 percent from a year earlier.
By Kim Yon-se(firstname.lastname@example.org