Sales of imported light passenger vehicles in South Korea fell 5% to 25,300 units in June 2024 from 26,756 units a year earlier, according to registration data released by the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (Kaida).

German automakers in particular posted sharp declines last month despite the recent launch of important new models by Mercedes and BMW.

Overall demand for new vehicles in South Korea remained sluggish, with domestic sales declining by 16% to 112,211 units last month and by 12% to 671,537 units year to date (YTD).

First half sales of imported light passenger vehicles fell by 4% to 125,652 units from 130,689 units a year earlier with volume supported by the inclusion of Tesla’s 17,380 sales YTD compared with none last year. The Model Y was the country’s best selling imported model YTD with 10,041 deliveries, just ahead of the BMW 5-series with 10,024 units.

German owned brands accounted for 64% of total import sales according to Kaida’s latest data.

BMW sales dropped by 24% to 8,100 units in June and by 8% to 35,130 units in the first half of the year, despite the recent launch of the new 5-series sedan, while Mini six-month sales were down by 2% at 4,353 units. Volkswagen sales fell by 11% to 2,875 units YTD while Porsche sales dropped by 43% to 3,563 units and Audi sales plunged 63% to 3,603 units.

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Mercedes-Benz sales fell 17% to 6,661 units in June despite the recent launch of the new E-series sedan, with first half sales falling by 15% to 30,011 units while Volvo sales also dropped by 15% to 7,185 units.

Toyota reported a 14% increase in first half sales to 4,535 units, helped by the recent introduction of the RAV4 plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and the Crown hybrid crossover vehicle, while Lexus sales were down by 8% at 6,421 units following strong growth last year.

Data released previously by the association showed sales of imported battery electric vehicles (BEVs) surged by 156% to 13,863 in the first four months of the year, to account for over 18% of imported light vehicle sales in the country. Major import brands including Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche and Volvo were investing heavily to strengthen their EV charging networks in the country.

According to government data, 543,900 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) were registered in South Korea between 2017 and 2023, up from 389,855 units at the end of 2022.

Competition in the country’s BEV segment was set to intensify with the expected entry of BYD Auto later this year, after the Chinese automaker applied for emissions and noise certifications for the Seal last month.