Imported brands struggled to keep up with a resurgent Hyundai Motor, which continued to gain ground following the recent release of new models including the new Palisade and Santa Fe SUVs and the new Sonata passenger car.

Sales of imported light vehicle in the first three months of the year were almost 17% lower at 52,161 units from 67,405 units in the same period of last year, while total imports, including medium and heavy commercial vehicles, were estimated at 53,330 units or 12.8% of total vehicle sales compared with 16% in the equivalent period of last year.

The leading importer, Mercedes-Benz, saw its sales fall by 31% to 13,849 units in the three month period from 21,633 units a year earlier, while BMW and Mini sales plunged by over 50% to 10,136 units from 20,677 units with the German brand affected by a major recall last year following a series of engine fires.

Toyota and Lexus sales fell by 3.9% to 7,022 units year-to-date from 7,308 units previously, with Toyota sales falling sharply in March, while VW and Audi volume almost quadrupled to 3,033 units after the brands were relaunched following the diesel emissions cover up scandal.