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Import car sales hit record high

Monthly sales of import automobiles hit an all-time high of 10,648 units in March, while Korean carmakers such as Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors suffered lackluster sales at home.

According to the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association, foreign carmakers saw their combined sales grow by 3.5 percent from a year earlier and 15.8 percent from a month before.

The former monthly record was 10,290 units, posted in March 2011.

For the first quarter of 2012, their sales increased by 13.9 percent to 29,285 units from 25,719 units over the same period last year.

BMW 520d was the best-selling model with sales of 778 units, followed by Mercedes-Benz E300 with 482 units, BMW 320d with 449 units and Toyota Motor’s Camry with 449 units.

By company, BMW topped the sales ranking with 2,560 units, followed by Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Audi, Toyota, Ford/Lincoln, Mini and Lexus.

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.

In the meantime, Kia Motors Corp., South Korea’s No. 2 automaker, said Tuesday its sales in the United States topped the 50,000-unit mark in March, reaching a new monthly sales milestone.

Kia Motors America, the U.S. subsidiary of Kia Motors, said the company sold 57,505 vehicles in the U.S. last month, surpassing the mark for the first time since its entry into the market in 1994.

The previous monthly sales record was set in May last year, when 48,212 units were sold in the world’s second-largest automobile market.

The record shipment in March was led by the increasing popularity of the Optima mid-sized sedan. KMA sold 15,008 Optima sedans last month, a whopping 117.8 percent increase from a year earlier.

Sales of the Soul compact, which entered the market in 2009, reached 13,607 in March, up 35.7 percent from the previous year.

Shipments of the Sorento sport utility vehicle and the fuel-efficient Rio sub-compact were also strong, KMA said.

Hyundai Motor Co., Kia Motors’ larger affiliate, said it sold 69,728 vehicles in the U.S. market in March, up 12.7 percent from a year earlier.

South Korea’s top automakers Hyundai Motor and Kia Motors are the flagships of Hyundai Motor Group, the world’s sixth-largest carmaker.

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