Sales of imported light passenger vehicles in South Korea fell by a further 8% to 27,223 units in December 2023 from 29,640 units a year earlier, according to the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA).

The data did not include some unaffiliated brands, including Tesla.

The market continued to weaken last month amid sluggish consumer spending following sharp interest rate hikes by the central bank in the last year from 1.25% to 3.5%. Importers also faced stronger competition from domestic brands, particularly Hyundai and its luxury unit Genesis. Sales by domestic manufacturers also declined last month, by 13% to 114,905 units, but were up by over 5% at 1,458,260 units over the full year.

Import sales declined 4% to 271,034 units last year from 283,435 in 2022, with German owned brands accounting for over 75% of the total.

BMW continued to lead this segment with sales falling by just 1.5% to 77,395 units with deliveries in December lifted by the arrival of the new 5 series sedan, while Mini sales were down 15% at 9,535 units.

Mercedes-Benz sales fell 5% to 76,697 units in 2023 although sales are expected to improve this year with the imminent launch of the popular E-class sedan.

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By GlobalData

Volkswagen sales plunged by 35% to 10,247 units, Audi sales were down 16% at 17,868 units while Porsche sales surged 27% to 11,355 units.

Volvo reported an 18% sales rise to 17,018 units with the company adding the EX30 BEV SUV to its range late last year.

Lexus deliveries jumped 79% to 13,561 units last year while Toyota sales rose 31% to 8,495 units, helped by the recent introduction of the RAV4 plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and the Crown hybrid crossover.

Land Rover sales surged 61% to 5,019 units.

Honda sales plunged 56% to 1,385 units despite the recent launch of the US 3.5-litre Pilot SUV, the 2.0-litre hybrid CR-V and the Accord hybrid sedan. The Odyssey MPV and the CR-V remained by far its most popular models.

Tesla was estimated to have sold close to 16,500 EVs in the country last year, mostly Model Ys.