Imported car sales hit a record-high of nearly 300,000 here last year, driven by pent-up demand for luxury cars during the coronavirus pandemic, industry sources said Friday.
Imported car brands’ sales in 2022 increased by 2.6 percent on-year to 283,435 units, according to data from the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association. When including the sales volume of 14,571 vehicles for Tesla, which was not counted by the association, the figure comes to 298,006 units, a twofold increase from 10 years ago.
Seven out of 10 imported cars sold here were from three German brands -- Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Volkswagen.
The bestselling brand was Mercedes-Benz, which sold 80,976 vehicles, a 6.3 percent increase from a year earlier. It maintained its No. 1 spot for the seventh consecutive year.
BMW came in second, seeing a surge in sales by 19.6 percent to 78,545 units sold. The gap with its archrival Mercedes-Benz shrunk from 10,483 in 2021 to 2,431 last year. Audi and Volkswagen sold 21,402 and 15,791 vehicles, respectively, during the same period.
Experts say imported car brands saw big sales gains, snapping back from pent-up consumer demand during the pandemic era.
“Also, two years of chip shortages and snarled supply chains battered local carmakers and forced buyers to wait a long time. The price gap between foreign luxury cars and local premium car brands has narrowed as well, taking away the advantages of local brands – shorter waiting periods and price effectiveness,” said Kim Pil-su, an automotive engineering professor at Daelim University.
But Kim said foreign car brands might not see a steep increase in sales this year. “Not only is pent-up demand fading away, but rising interest rates will make loans to buy a car more expensive. Only the handful of leading German luxury carmakers are likely to enjoy sales growth, even during an economic slowdown.”
While imported car brands posted stellar sales figures, local brands including Hyundai Motor, Kia, GM Korea, Renault Korea and KG Mobility -- previously known as SsangYong Motors -- saw slight decreases in sales last year. Their cumulative sales volume dropped by 3.2 percent to 1.39 million units, recording an all-time low since 2013.