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Japanese Cars Reclaim 20% Share in Imported Car Market in Korea
Hybrid Cars Popular In Korea
Japanese Cars Reclaim 20% Share in Imported Car Market in Korea
  • By Jung Min-hee
  • April 15, 2019, 11:00
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Japanese cars’ share in Korea’s imported car market surpassed 20 percent for the first time since 2010.

Japanese cars’ share in Korea’s imported car market surpassed 20 percent for the first time since 2010.

Japanese cars accounted for 22.2 percent (11,585) of the total imported car market (52,061 units) from January to March of this year, said the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association (KAIDA) on April 14.

Japanese cars hit a 10.9 percent market share in 2001, when they entered the Korean market for the first time. The first-year share was followed by 18.4 percent in 2002, 19.4 percent in 2003, 29.3 percent in 2004, 29.4 percent in 2005, 30.1 percent in 2006, 33 percent in 2007 and 35.5 percent in 2008.


Japanese cars’ market share had been on the decline since the global financial crisis in 2008. It dropped to 27.9 percent in 2009, 26.4 percent in 2010, 18 percent in 2011, 18.3 percent in 2012, 14.1 percent in 2013, 12.3 percent in 2014 and 11.9 percent in 2015, falling for six years in a row and nearly going below a double-digit share.

After a successful rebound to 15.7 percent in 2016, their market share grew to 18.7 percent in 2017 before dropping to 17.4 percent last year.

Popular Japanese cars in the Korean market are hybrid cars. As of March, nine of the 10 most popular imported hybrid cars in Korea were Japanese hybrids. Lexus hybrid models accounted for half of the top 10. They were the ES300h, NX300h, RX450h, UX250h, and CT200h. Toyota had three models – the Camry Hybrid, the Avalon Hybrid and the Prius C., while Honda had one, the Honda Accord Hybrid.

Japanese hybrids’ immense popularity has dampened a diesel car fever in Korea. They have pulled down the market share of European cars led by German automakers that enjoyed sharp growth with diesel models. The fall of European cars in Korea is also blamed on Audi Volkswagen’s slump in the aftermath of the so-called "diesel gate." The newly introduced Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) regulations have made certification of diesel models more difficult.

European cars’ market share, which peaked at 80.5 percent in 2015, fell to 68.7 percent during the January-March period of this year. Their market share fell to 60 percent in eight years since 2010 (65.4 percent). German cars’ share stood at 51.3 percent, which was a year-on-year drop of more than 10 percentage points.