Sales of imported light passenger vehicles in South Korea increased by over 41% to 27,350 in June 2020 from 19,386 units in the same month of last year, according to member data released by the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA).

This was in line with the strong performance last month by the country's main domestic vehicle manufacturers, which saw their combined sales also rise by 41% to 176,468 units.

Consumers have shrugged off concerns over the global COVID-19 pandemic and helped the market recover from the weak first quarter when vehicle manufacturers were forced to close plants due to supply chain disruptions and efforts to limit the spread of the disease.

Sales of imported vehicles in the first six months of 2020 were up by over 17% at 128,236 units from 109,314 units a year earlier, with German brands selling a combined 83,647 units – over 65% of the total.

Mercedes Benz remained the leading import brand in the first half of this year, with sales rising by over 30% to 36,368 units, followed by BMW with a more than 41% sales rise to 25,430 units as the company continued to recover from a damaging recall campaign in 2018.

Volkswagen has also made good progress in rebuilding its market presence, with six month sales up more than fourfold at 7,405 units, while Audi sales also jumped almost fourfold to 10,071 units as the brand rebounded strongly from a 46% decline in the first two months of the year.

Porsche sales were up by over 72% at 4,373 units in this period.

Japanese brands continued to suffer from the broad consumer boycott after a diplomatic spat broke out between the two countries last year as their combined sales fell by over 56% to 9,719 units in the first six months of the year.

Lexus was the best-selling Japanese brand in this period with 3,597 deliveries, down over 57% year on year.

Nissan Motor in May said it would withdraw from South Korea by the end of 2020 as part of a global restructuring plan which includes a refocus on larger, more profitable countries.

The automaker also cited anti-Japanese sentiment as one of the reasons for quitting South Korea.

Tesla said it sold 7,079 vehicles in South Korea in the first half of the year compared with 422 units in the same period of last year, reflecting strong demand for the Model 3.