Sales of imported vehicles in South Korea rose by close to 20% to 26,402 units in March from 22,080 units a year earlier, according to data released by the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association (KAIDA).

The association said six out of 10 imported vehicles sold in the country were from Germany with Mercedes-Benz and BMW dominating with models such as the E200 and 520d respectively. 

Lexus has also been gaining ground in this market thanks to its strong focus on the hybrid segment with popular models such as the ES300h sedan. The company sold 19,100 hybrid cars in South Korea last year.

Volkswagen and Audi have also returned to this market in recent months after an absence of over a year following their diesel emissions cover-up scandal.

Total sales of imported vehicles increased by 23% to 67,405 units in the first quarter of 2018 from 54,966 units in the same period of last year and KAIDA expects full-year sales to rise by almost 10% 256,000 units from 233,088 units in 2017.

Local media suggested in a separate report Mercedes-Benz recently agreed to pay a fine to the South Korean Ministry of Environment for failing to meet its annual sales quota of 'green cars' last year.