Sales of imported light passenger vehicles in South Korea jumped by almost 27% to 22,321 units in January 2021 from 17,640 units in the same month of last year, according to member data released by the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA).

Deliveries continued to benefit from the 30% sales tax discount introduced in June last year, which expired at the end of the year. Domestic sales by local manufacturers also increased sharply last month, by 16% to 116,270 units.

Mercedes-Benz was the leading import brand in January, with sales rising by 1.6% to 5,918 units, helped by the launch of new models in the fourth quarter of 2020 including the the GLB, GLA and GLE Coupe SUVs. The company plans to launch two new electric vehicles this year, the EQA and EQS, to be sold alongside the existing EQC BEV SUV.

BMW came a close second last month after its sales more than doubled to 5,717 units from 2,707 units a year earlier as it continued to rebound strongly from a hugely damaging recall campaign in 2018, while Porsche sales jumped to 681 from 99 units a year earlier.

Volkswagen struggled to keep pace with the overall market with sales falling by over 29% to 1,236 units. The company is scheduled to launch the T-Roc compact SUV this month, followed by the redesigned Golf 8 later this year and the Teramont and the BEV ID.4 in 2022.

Audi performed much better, with sales surging to 2,302 units from 763 units a year earlier.

At the end of last year, Audi Volkswagen Korea Group said it was scheduled to launch eight new BEV models by 2023 to help fulfill growing local demand for zero emission vehicles. 

Japanese brands continued to suffer from a broad-based consumer boycott after a diplomatic spat broke out between the two countries in 2019.

Combined sales fell by almost 15% to 1,035 units last month from 1,216 units a year earlier, after plunging by almost 57% to 20,564 units last year.

Nissan and Infiniti withdrew altogether from this market at the end of December. 

Lexus sales fell by 13% to 443 units last month while Toyota sales were down 5% at 400 units.

Honda reported a 42% sales decline to 192 units with the company stepping up efforts to launch hybrid models to regain market share. It has set a target of 3,000 hybrid sales this year.