In the first half of this year, sales of import cars edged down 2.6% from a year before. It was the first time in seven years since 2009 for the sales in the half year. Analysis says that the “Diesel Gate” that broke out last year had a big impact although various elements played their roles.
In actuality, diesel cars shrank 7.7% to 75,676 units from a year earlier according to the registration of new import cars by fuels. Gasoline-powered cars inched up 2.5% to 34,242 from 33,409 year on year. The drop in sales of diesel cars contributed to a rise in sales of hybrid cars rather than gasoline cars. During the same span, sales of hybrid cars sharply rose 57.5% to 6,724 from 4,270. Electric car sales slid to 107 from 130 even though they are eco-friendly cars. This shows that hybrid cars completely absorbed an increase in demand for eco-friendly cars.
Toyota Korea is continuing to have a large lead over others in the import hybrid car market. The Japanese automaker sold a total of 8,771 cars, a year on year increase of 18.1%. By brands, Toyota and Lexus models increased 13.4% and 23.0%, respectively.
Sales of hybrid cars significantly contributed to this sales increase. Toyota sold a total of 2,333 hybrid models up until last month, inking a year on year increase of 98.9% from 1,173 units in the same period of last year. Hybrid cars accounted for 54.5% of Toyota’s total sales in the first half of this year. Last year, the percentage stood at 31.1%. Only sales of the fourth-generation Prius launched in March dropped by 12 from a year before. Sales of the Camry and Prius hybrid models swelled to 1,134 and 87 from 316 and 70. RAV4 that began to sell in March became a hit as 337 units were sold for four months.
The proportion of hybrid car sales of Lexus’ total sales in Korea is on a sharp rise, too. Sales of Lexus hybrid cars which stood at 2,881 in the first half of last year swelled 35.2% to 3,895 units in the same period of this year. Hybrid models accounted for 86.8% of total sales. Last year, the percentage was 81.7%. This means that nine in ten Lexus cars sold in Korea are hybrid models.
In the first half of this year, the ES300h synonymous with mid-sized hybrid sedans sold 2,631 units, a year on year increase of 19.1%. Sales of the sports utility vehicle (SUV) NX300 more than doubled to 738 units. The NX300 was followed by the RX450h which hit the market in March.
Sales of the Japanese brand Infiniti hybrid car rose too. In the first half of this year, its Q50S hybrid models sold 262 units, coming close to 283 units which were total sales of last year. Strong sales of the Q50 hybrid and diesel models pushed up sales of Infiniti 38.7% to 1,889 in the first half of this year. The Lincoln MKZ hybrid models of Ford sold 145 units by last month, showing a year on year increase of 57.6%.
Import car companies will launch Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) such as BMW’s New X5 x Drive and New 330e and Mercedes-Benz’s S550e and Volvo’s all-new XC90 T8 one after another in the second half. It is expected that competition in the Hybrid car market will be intensified as Hyudai and KIA are also planning to launch IONIQ and K5 PHEVs. “The launches of hybrid models by Hyundai and KIA are expanding the eco-friendly car market,” said a representative of the import car industry in Korea. “If the current trend maintains, sales of import hybrid cars will reach the 15,000 unit level for the first time this year.”