Sales of imported light passenger vehicles in South Korea rose by 3.5% to 24,080 units in May 2021 from 23,272 units in the same month of last year, according to vehicle registration data released by the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA).

Import sales continued to outperform the domestic vehicle market, which declined by 15% to 124,145 units last month, reflecting growing demand for luxury brands in the country. Domestic sales have also impacted by supply chain shortages, while the smaller local brands are struggling to compete.

Import sales in the first five months of 2021 increased by over 20% to 121,566 units from 100,886 units a year earlier, with German-owned brands accounting for almost 75% of the total – or 90,761 units.

Mercedes-Benz continued to lead the import segment with a 23% sales rise to 35,342 units in the five-month period. The company has strengthened its SUV line-up in the last six months with the launch of the Maybach GLS 600 4MATIC in February, which followed the launch of the GLB, GLA and GLE Coupe models in the fourth quarter of 2020. Two new electric vehicle models, the EQA and EQS, are scheduled to enter the market this year, to be sold alongside the currently available EQC.

BMW looked to have fully recovered from a hugely damaging recall campaign in 2018, with year-to-date sales jumping by over 39% to 29,759 units, while Mini sales were up by over 19% at 4,977 units.

Volkswagen reported a 16% sales increase to 7,085 units, helped by the launch of the T-ROC compact SUV earlier in the year. The all-new Golf compact car is scheduled to be launched later in 2021, to be followed by the Teramont SUV and the all-electric ID.4 in 2022. Audi’s sales surged by over 34% to 8,950 units in the same period, while

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Porsche sales were up by over 28% at 4,398 units.

At the end of last year, 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, which are not covered by KAIDA, jumped to 6,731 units in the first five months of the year – with sales in May surging to 3,461 units, after the government earlier this year extended electric vehicle subsidies to buyers of the brand.