SOUTH KOREA: Germans gain in March from anti-Japan sentiments

By just-auto.com editorial team | 7 April 2005

BMW and Audi are the leading car makers making gains from the growing "anti-Japan sentiment" in South Korea over the ownership of the islands between the two countries.

In March, BMW sold a total of 501 cars to regain its long-held top position from Lexus, which sold 411 units. Lexus has been marketing aggressively as part of its drive to deliver the impression that Japan is a "friend country."

While Lexus was staggering, Audi gained momentum by selling 232 cars in March, up sharply up from 169 in February and fewer than 100 units each month late last year.

Almost every day, hundreds of angry South Koreans protest in front of the Japanese embassy in downtown Seoul. Some say they would like to smash up Japanese cars as well as electronics goods.

A Toyota official in Seoul said: "if the anti-Japan sentiment continues, it will continue to hurt our sales, but we hope not."

Because of the anti-Japan sentiment, however, Toyota has cancelled the press launch of its redesigned Lexus GS luxury sport sedan.

Honda, whose Accord V6 has rapidly emerged as one of the most popular imported cars in South Korea after its debut in May last year, is now losing that popularity, which was in part due to its reasonable prices.

In March, Honda, which has been selling more than 200 units each month since October last year, sold only 155 cars, down from 165 in February.

It remains to be seen how Nissan will perform amid the anti-Japanese sentiment. It is preparing to make its Korean debut at the Seoul motor show in late April with five models including its luxury brand Infiniti.

Peter Chang