Korea’s imports of foreign-made tires reached a record high last year due to an increase in imported cars and market penetration by low-priced products from Southeast Asia.
The Korea Tire Industrial Association said on Feb. 6 that Korea’s tire imports rose 6.8 percent year on year to 12.55 million units last year. The aggregate value of imported tires rose 11 percent to reach US$818 million, the highest level ever.
By item, passenger car tires, which accounted for 70 percent of total imports, increased 11 percent while tires for trucks and buses gained 1.5 percent.
By country, Chinese-made tires accounted for 35.8 percent of the total, up 1.5 percent year on year. Tires from Thailand surged 73.3 percent, surpassing those from Germany to take second place. Those from Germany and Japan also jumped 10.8 percent and 20.5 percent, respectively.
Last year, the number of newly registered imported cars in Korea hit 260,705, up 11.8 percent from 2017, and imported cars accounted for 16.7 percent, the highest since 2015.
Korean tire makers also showed a sign of recovery in sales. Last year, Korean tire producers sold a total of 92.42 million units at home and abroad, a 1.2-percent increase from 2017.
Sales of Korean-made tires peaked at 99 million units in 2013 but dropped to 96.89 million units in 2016 and 93.12 million units in 2017, before rebounding last year. Exports led the turnaround. Last year, Korea’s tire exports amounted to 71.14 million units, up 4.3 percent from 2017. Tire exports hit a record high of 73.67 million units in 2012 and fell below 70 million units in 2017 by reaching 68.26 million units. The value of Korea’s tire exports also rose 1.3 percent to US$3.64 billion in 2018 from US$3.6 billion in 2017.