Sales of imported light passenger vehicles in South Korea declined by 4.2% to 26,191 units in June 2021 from 27,350 units in the same month of last year, according to registration data released by the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA).

This was the first decline so far this year with sales activity affected by social and business restrictions put in place by the government to slow the current spike in coronavirus infections in the country. Imports continued to outperform the domestic vehicle market, however, which declined by 24% to 134,761 units last month.

Import sales in the first half of 2021 increased by over 15% to 147,757 units from 128,236 units a year earlier, with German brands accounting for over 74% of the total, 110,032 units.

Mercedes-Benz continued to lead imports with a 16% sales rise to 42,170 units in the six-month period. The company plans to launch two new electric vehicle models this year, the EQA and EQS, to be sold alongside the currently available EQC.

BMW looks to have recovered fully from a hugely damaging recall campaign in 2018, with year-to-date sales jumping by over 39% to 36,261 units, while Mini sales were up by almost 13% at 6,174 units.

Volkswagen reported an 18% sales increase to 8,752 units, helped by the launch of the T-Roc compact SUV earlier in the year. The redesigned Golf is scheduled to be launched later in 2021, to be followed by the Teramont SUV and the ID.4 EV SUV in 2022.

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Audi sales surged by over 7% to 10,798 units in the same period while Porsche sales were up by close to 23% at 5,365 units.

At the end of last year the group’s local distributor, Audi Volkswagen Korea Group, said it planned to launch eight new all-electric models by 2023 to tap in to growing local demand for zero-emission vehicles.

Tesla sales, not covered by KAIDA, surged by 64% to 11,626 units in the first half of the year. The company sold 4,856 in June, with the Model 3 accounting for 2,884 units, making it the best-selling imported model ahead of the BMW 5-Series, which sold 2,021 units.

KAIDA said its members planned to launch 53 all-electric models in South Korea by the end of 2023, together with 46 mild hybrid and 32 hybrid and plug-in hybrid electric models.

This will put further pressure on the smaller domestic manufacturers.

At the end of June, eight foreign brands voluntarily recalled a combined 25,000 vehicles to fix various problems with components, according to local reports.