Sales of imported light passenger vehicles in South Korea rose by 11.5% to 25,578 units in April 2021 from 22,945 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 significantly outperform the domestic vehicle market, which declined by almost 7% last month, reflecting growing demand for luxury brands in the country. Domestic sales have also impacted by supply chain shortages as well as corporate issues such as strikes and insolvencies.
Import sales in the first four months of 2021 increased by almost 26% to 97,486 units from 77,614 units a year earlier, with German-owned brands accounting for over 75% of the total – or 73,241 units.
Mercedes-Benz continued to lead the import segment with an almost 25% sales rise to 2,7652 units in the four-month period. The company strengthened its SUV line-up in the last six months with the launch of the Maybach GLS 600 4MATIC in February which followed 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 be launched this year to be sold alongside its existing EQC battery-powered SUV.
BMW continued to rebound strongly from a hugely damaging recall campaign in 2018, with year-to-date sales rising by almost 43% to 23,502 units, while Porsche's sales were up by over 48% at 3,551 units.
Volkswagen's cumulative sales increased by over 17% to 5,727 units, helped by the launch of the T-ROC compact SUV earlier in the year. The all-new Golf compact car scheduled to be launched later in 2021, followed by the Teramont SUV and the all-electric ID.4 in 2022. Audi's sales surged by over 94% to 8,721 units in the same period.
At the end of last year the group's 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's sales, which are not covered in the Kaida report, jumped to 3,194 units in the first quarter – with most deliveries taking place in March once government electric vehicle subsidies became available.