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Toyota, Jaguar Land Rover each flag over W1tr earnings

Amid a steady shift in South Korean drivers’ preferences, imported car makers in the local auto industry continue to expand their presence, with Toyota Korea and Jaguar Land Rover Korea becoming the latest to each post over 1 trillion won ($887.8 million) in earnings, industry figures showed Thursday.

This the first time that imported car makers besides the three German-based automakers, Mercedes-Benz Korea, BMW Korea, Audi Volkswagen Korea, have earned more than 1 trillion won here. The three German firms joined the 1 trillion won-seller club in 2012.

Toyota Korea’s sales totaled 1.04 trillion won between April 2017 and this March, jumping to No. 3 best-selling imported car maker here after Mercedes-Benz and BMW, according to data from the company.

Jaguar Land Rover Korea also posted 1.01 trillion in sales in the cited period.

“Local drivers looking for eco-friendly cars as a substitute for diesel-powered vehicles are increasingly turning to hybrids, and Toyota is a leader in such hybrid vehicles,” said Kim Phil-soo, a professor of automotive engineering at Daelim University.

Kim added that as anti-Japanese sentiment has become less prevalent when it comes to purchasing vehicles, consumers are placing greater importance on quality, price and brand image.

Lexus ES300h (Toyota Korea)
Lexus ES300h (Toyota Korea)

Toyota Korea sold about 5,010 hybrid vehicles, about 60 percent of the 8,350 units the carmaker sold in the first half of this year, data from the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association showed. Toyota’s hybrid portfolio consists of the eighth-generation Camry hybrid sedan released in October last year, the Prius V plug-in hybrid and Prius Prime, among other models.

“We are thankful for local drivers’ interest in Toyota. Despite rising sales, we had posted losses for the past few years, but last year we were able to see a turnaround,” said the spokesperson of Toyota Korea.

However, as Toyota Korea’s rapid growth here came in the midst of Audi Volkswagen Korea’s absence, its new position may be reclaimed by German automakers that resumed sales this spring.

In May and June, Audi Volkswagen Korea ranked third in sales among imported car makers, after Mercedes-Benz Korea and BMW Korea.

By model, Volkswagen’s Tiguan midsize sport utility vehicle released here in May was the No. 1 top-seller with 1,076 units sold in June, according to data from KAIDA.

“Drivers’ preference in automakers will continue to diversify. For instance, drivers searching for high-end carmakers other than Benz and BMW turned to Jaguar Land Rover Korea, as it offers a British heritage brand image and high quality products,” Kim said.

Benefiting also from the SUV boom, Jaguar Land Rover Korea’s top two best-selling models were SUV lineups in 2017. A total of 4,361 units of Land Rover Discovery Sport were sold, followed by 1,684 units of the Range Rover Evoque SUV, the company said.

By Kim Bo-gyung (