Toyota - launched in Korea only last week - has enjoyed unprecedented sales for a new entrant in its first week of business operations.

The company took 2,700 orders for its first four models in just seven days, the local unit told the Korea Times.

That was the fastest-ever pace of sales for an imported brand in South Korea, despite the company currently having just five dealerships nationwide. Honda sold 1,000 vehicles in its first month in 2003 with two models and Lexus, launched in 2001, now sells around 6,000 vehicles annually.

Camry and Prius customers will have to wait two months for delivery, Toyota Korea said. The Camry accounted for 1,800 orders.

The Camry is price competitive, analysts said the 2.5 model is KRW35m (US$29,340) lower than imported rivals such as the Honda Accord (KRW36m) and the Nissan Altima KRW37m.

Hyundai's Grandeur 2.7 sells for slightly less than KRW35m.

Sales of the Camry trail the Hyundai Sonata which sold 37,000 in the first seven days but appear to be affecting Grandeur sales, the paper said.

This month's Grandeur volume to the 20th was 3,048, less than half of the 6,146 last month. If the trend continues through the month, the model is expected to see monthly sales contract by nearly 25% from September.

Some rival brands have forecast Toyota's sales streak will slow down gradually as supplies fall well short of market demand.

"It is good for all import car dealers here if Toyota's rolling sales can beef up the market size. But I don't see its popularity being maintained over the next six months,'' an official of a rival importer said.

Toyota Korea set an initial cap on sales in the first few months, allegedly to steer away from possible repercussions to a Japanese maker expanding too rapidly in Korea, where anti-Japanese sentiment often prevails. Its plan was to supply 500 vehicles per month this year, then 700 from next year, according to the company.

The government's pump-priming policy could also have affected sales, as incentives from scrapping old vehicles for a new purchase are good for this year only. All the vehicles Toyota has secured for this year's sales have been sold even before the launch, so customers might turn their interest elsewhere to benefit from the measure, industry watchers told the Korea Times.