Korean and Japanese manufacturers scored big gains in the first half of 2003 at the expense of traditional European carmakers, according to Automotive News Europe.

Led by KIA and Hyundai, the Korean share of western European car sales rose to 3.2% in the first half of 2003 from 2.7% in same period a year ago. In June alone, unit sales of Korean cars were up 28.3% and rose 14.4% for the year-to-date.

“The Koreans have achieved the growth through sheer hard work and perseverance,” said Garel Rhys of the Centre for Automotive Transportation at Cardiff University in Wales. “They’ve readdressed the issue of model range and product.”

Japanese sales rose 11.8% in June and were up 6% in the first half. Combined Japanese market share has risen from 11.3% in the first six months of 2002 to 12.3% in the same period this year.

Overall, western European sales rose 2.9% in June, but are down 2.6% for the year according to Acea, the European car makers’ association.