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Import car sales drop for first time in 28 months

The nation’s import car industry saw its monthly sales fall for the first time in 28 months in December 2011.

According to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association, foreign carmakers reported combined sales of 7,879 units last December, down from 8,294 units a year earlier.

The year-on-year drop in sales was the first since the figure stood at 3,612 units in August 2009, compared with 4,894 units in August 2008.

In addition, the figure of 7,879 is quite low compared to the 9,230 units sold in November 2011.

Concerning the possibility that undermined domestic demand could also negatively affect the import car sector, a spokeswoman for KAIDA downplayed it.

“There is a possibility that several foreign carmakers’ Korean units put the brakes on their imports as they could already have achieved their yearly sales targets,” she said.

She added that their sales in January 2012 will be a barometer to predict their coming performance in the local market.

But the import car industry marked an epoch-making figure in vehicle sales last year as more foreign companies, including Nissan, expanded their marketing and businesses.

Korea saw yearly sales of import cars surpass 100,000 units in 2011 for the first time.

Their 2011 sales came to 105,037 units, up 16 percent from 90,562 units a year before.

Over the past few years, their yearly sales continued to increase ― 53,390 units in 2007, 61,648 units in 2008, and 60,993 units in 2009.

BMW topped the list with yearly sales of 23,293 units, capturing 22.1 percent of the import automobile market.

Mercedes-Benz ranked second with 19,534 units and a market share of 18.6 percent, followed by Volkswagen with 12,436 units and a market share of 11.8 percent.

The best-selling model was the Mercedes-Benz E300. The German automaker sold 7,019 units of the model in 2011. BMW 520d and BMW 528 ranked second and third with sales of 6,211 and 5,940 units, respectively.

KAIDA forecast the import car market will grow about 12 percent this year.

“Their 2012 sales are projected to reach about 120,000 units,” the spokeswoman said.

Foreign carmakers are expected to grab 10 percent of Korea’s automobile market in either 2012 or 2013 after the market share surpass 1 percent for the first time in 2002.

By Kim Yon-se (kys@heraldcorp.com)
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