Imported car sales have been on a steady decline this year. However, car importers are preparing to make a major comeback in April, the peak season. They are seeking to promote imported car sales by addressing a shortage of imported cars and launching new models that were recently introduced at the 2019 Seoul Motor Show.
In March, 18,078 imported cars were registered, according to the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA). The figure represented a 13.8 percent increase from the previous month but a drop of 31.5 percent from a year before.
As a result, imported cars’ share in the domestic passenger car market dropped to 13.65 percent in March, the lowest level in two years and three months since 12.42 percent in December of 2016.
This year's sluggish sales of imported cars are attributed to delayed certification and insufficient quantity. The certification process has been delayed since the exhaust gas certification system changed to the Worldwide Harmonised Light Vehicle Test Procedure (WLTP) in Europe in the second half of last year. Car importers also suffered a shortage of inventories for major new models scheduled for launches.
In the first quarter of this year, imported passenger car sales totaled 52,161 units, down 22.6 percent from the same period of last year. The sales figure was the lowest first-quarter record since 2014.
In March, Mercedes-Benz maintained the number one position by selling 4,442 units, followed by BMW with 2,999 units. Honda, which stood seventh in February, came in third with 1,457 units, followed by Lexus (1,371), Land Rover (1,253), Toyota (913), Volvo (890), Mini (868), Ford (785) and Porsche (720).
The best selling model of last month was the Mercedes E300 which posted 946 units in sales. It was followed by the Mercedes E300 4MATIC (824), the Lexus ES300h (788), the Land Rover Discovery Sports (680), the Benz GLC 300 4MATIC Coupe (666), the Benz C 200d (639), the Porsche Cayenne (568), the Ford Explorer 2.3 (492), the BMW 520 (462) and the Honda Accord Hybrid (384).
Import car sales had been sluggish by March, but market experts forecast a gradual rise in sales beginning in April. The inventory shortage is easing and imported car brands are promoting the new models unveiled at the 2019 Seoul Motor Show.