Sales of imported light passenger vehicles in South Korea fell 16% to 21,329 units in October 2023 from 25,363 units a year earlier, according to the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA). The data did not include some non-affiliated brands, including Tesla.

The market continued to weaken amid sluggish consumer spending following the sharp interest rate hikes by the central bank in the last year, from 1.25% to 3.5% currently. Imports are also coming up against stronger competition from domestic brands, including Hyundai’s luxury Genesis unit. Sales by domestic vehicle manufacturers declined 2% to 117,622 units last month.

In the first 10 months of the year, import sales were 3% lower at 219,071 units from 225,573 in the same period of 2022, with German owned brands accounting for 75% of the total.

BMW continued to lead this segment with year to date sales falling 3% to 62,514 units despite the launch of the new 5-series sedan last month, while Mini sales were down 14% at 7,734 units.

Mercedes-Benz 10 month sales fell 4% to 60,988 units with the brand recovering from much sharper losses earlier in the year helped by new EVs such as the EQB SUV and the EQE and EQS sedans. Volkswagen sales plunged 30% to 7,819 units while Audi sales were down 11 % at 15,258 units. Porsche sales jumped 38% to 9,690 units.

Volvo also reported a 38% sales rise to 13,770 units year to date with the company strengthening its range with the launch of its EX30 battery powered compact SUV this month. Volvo’s local distributor earlier this year revealed plans to invest US$85m to strengthen its sales and aftersales network in the country.

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Lexus was the best performing brand this year with a 93% surge in deliveries to 11,008 units, followed by Land Rover with an 84% jump to 4,384 units. Toyota sales rose 24% to 6,767 units, helped by the recent introduction of the RAV4 plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and the Crown hybrid crossover vehicles as part of a broader plan to launch nine new Toyota and Lexus models in 2023.

Honda sales fell 63% to 1,047 units, split mainly between the Odyssey MPV and the CR-V ranges. The company has just launched two new models, the 3.5-litre Pilot SUV and the two-litre hybrid CR-V, with the Accord hybrid sedan scheduled to be launched in November.