Sales of imported light passenger vehicles in South Korea increased 13% to 24,209 units in May 2024 from 21,339 units a year earlier, according to the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA).

This was the third consecutive month of growth for this segment following sharp declines earlier in the year, supported by the availability of new models from Mercedes and BMW and the inclusion of Tesla data.

Overall demand for new vehicles in South Korea remained sluggish, however, with domestic sales declining 11% to 117,064 units in May and also by 11% to 559,325 units year-to-date.

Sales of imported light passenger vehicles in the first five months of 2024 were still down 3% at 100,352 units from 103,933 units a year earlier with German owned brands accounting for 64% of the total.

BMW continued to lead this segment despite sales falling by 3.5% to 28,958 units year to date (YTD), underpinned by the recent arrival of the new 5-series sedan while Mini sales increased 4% to 3,607 units.

Volkswagen sales rose by 4% to 2,475 units while Porsche sales dropped by 36% at 3,296 units and Audi sales plunged 67% to 2,701 units.

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Mercedes-Benz sales rebounded strongly in the last two months as deliveries of the new E-series sedan got under way, although YTD volumes was still down by 15% at 23,350 units.

Tesla sold 12,087 vehicles in this period compared with none reported by the association for last year while Volvo sales dropped by 19% to 5,733 units.

Polestar said it planned to begin sales of its battery-powered 4 SUV in June to help revive its flagging sales.

Toyota has made strong gains so far this year with sales rising 29% to 3,875 units helped by the recent introduction of the RAV4 plug in hybrid (PHEV) and the Crown hybrid crossover while Lexus sales were just slightly higher at 5,374 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 are investing heavily to strengthen their EV charging networks.

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