Sales of imported light passenger vehicles in South Korea increased by 3% to 21,560 units in April 2024 from 20,910 units a year earlier, according to data released by the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA).

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

Overall demand for new vehicles in South Korea remained sluggish, however, with domestic sales declining by 7% to 119,414 units in April and by 11% to 442,454 units year to date (YTD).

Sales of imported light passenger vehicles in the first four months of 2024 were still down 8% at 76,143 units from 82,594 units a year earlier with German owned brands accounting for 66% of the total according to Kaida’s latest data.

BMW continued to lead this segment despite sales falling by 5% to 22,718 units YTD, underpinned by the recent arrival of its new 5-series sedan, while Mini sales increased 11% to 2,885 units. Volkswagen sales rose by 10% to 2,030 units while Porsche sales dropped by 29% to 2,906 units and Audi sales plunged 75% to 1,870 units.

Mercedes-Benz sales rebounded strongly in April, reflecting strong demand for the new E-series sedan which it launched in January, while cumulative four month volume was down 18% to 17,403 units.

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Tesla sold 7,922 vehicles in this period compared with none reported by the association for last year while Volvo sales dropped 24% to 4,217 units. Polestar said it plans 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 by 33% to 3,174 units helped by the recent introduction of the RAV4 plug-in hybrid (PHEV) and the Crown hybrid crossover, while Lexus sales were down 6% at 4,055 units following strong growth last year.

Major import brands including Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Porsche and Volvo are investing heavily to strengthen their EV charging networks in South Korea as they continue to target the country’s plug in market.

According to government data, 543,900 battery electric vehicles (BEVs) were registered in South Korea between 2017 and 2023, up from 389,855 registered at the end of 2022. A further 12,237 units were registered in the first quarter of 2024.