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Sales of imported light passenger vehicles in South Korea fell by a further 9% to 21,339 units in May 2023 from 23,512 units a year earlier, according to the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA).

The data did not include some non-affiliated brands, including Tesla.

Last month’s decline reflected mainly falling sales by German automakers Mercedes-Benz, BMW and Volkswagen Group, amid rising competition from domestic manufacturers which enjoyed a 9% sales rise to almost 131,000 units combined. Japanese brands, including Toyota and Lexus, also made strong gains from depressed year earlier levels.

In the first five months of the year, overall import sales were 4% lower at 103,933 units from 108,314 in the same period of 2022 with German brands still accounting for around 74% of the total or 77,200 units. BMW continued to lead this segment in this period despite a 3% sales decline to 30,006 units while Mini sales plunged 26% to 3,460 units.

Mercedes-Benz was struggling to regain the significant ground it lost last year with YTD sales falling 18% to 27,420 units despite the recent launch of the EQB SUV and the EQE and EQS EV sedans.

Volkswagen sales plunged 50% to 2,702 units while Audi volume increased 26% to 8,289 units and Porsche sales were up 27% to 5,117 units.

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By GlobalData

Local distributor Volkswagen Group Korea launched a number of new and upgraded models last year, including the Audi Q4 e-tron and VW ID.4.

Lexus sales doubled to 5,295 units year to date while Toyota volume rose 35% to 3,012 units, helped by the launch of the RAV4 plug-in hybrid in March.

Toyota began selling its new Crown hybrid crossover utility vehicle earlier this month as part of its plans to launch eight new Toyota and Lexus models in 2023, including the Lexus RZ 450e and Toyota bZ4X electric SUVs, the Prius PHEV and the Highlander [Kluger] and Alphard hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs).

Volvo sales increased 24% to 7,091 YTD, helped by the recent launch of the C40 Recharge, the first of seven EVs it plans to launch by 2030. In April the company said it was scheduled to launch the EX9 electric SUV this year and also announced plans to invest US$85m to strengthen its sales and aftersales network.

The UK’s Ineos Automotive said it plans to enter the South Korean market this year with the launch of the Grenadier pickup truck which it displayed at this year’s Seoul Motor Show.