Despite the setback due to Volkswagen’s emissions-rigging scandal and local protests against Mercedes-Benz and BMW for alleged malfunctions, foreign automakers here remain upbeat on future sales, a group of imported car brands suggested Wednesday.
“We expect to sell 235,000 units of imported cars this year, and forecast a growth of 8.5 percent at 255,000 next year,” said Yoon Dae-sung, executive managing director of the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association, at a press conference.
“We have had impressive performance in the diesel segment, especially by German carmakers, though there has been a slowdown in recent months,” he said.
The group, whose members include Volkswagen, Mercedes-Benz and BMW, remained rather coy about the recent emissions scandal that has pushed over 1,536 Volkswagen and Audi customers in Korea to sue the German carmaker.
“This is a bad incident when someone falsified information. … But it should not be used to degrade the technology or a manufacturer in general,” said Dimitris Psillakis, vice chairman of KAIDA. He is also the new CEO of Mercedes-Benz Korea.
Yoon also projected that the diesel and SUV boom will continue.
“Generally speaking, I don’t think all cars will be replaced to diesel engines or sport utility vehicles. But it is true that in Germany and several other countries, diesel engines account for 51 percent of the entire cars,” Yoon said.
Imported car brands have expanded their market share every year, recently garnering an all-time high of 14.5 percent of the local car market, mainly thanks to the SUV and diesel vehicle boom, KAIDA said.
Mindful of some people’s sentiments that driving imported cars is unpatriotic, Yoon said that imported carmakers and domestic carmakers — Hyundai, Kia, Renault Samsung, GM Korea and Ssangyong — could create a win-win effect instead of cannibalization.
“While imported car brands have increased their presence to 14 percent of the market share, domestic players such as Hyundai have been selling and rolling out 8 million cars worldwide at the same time. This shows that as much as you import, you get to export,” Yoon said. “Among $26 billion worth of car parts sold every year, about 30 percent are exported under the original equipment manufacturer system. Many of the buyers are the sister companies of our KAIDA members,” he said.
But KAIDA also provoked controversy by suggesting that several models manufactured overseas by companies classified as local carmakers should be included as imported cars. “Renault Samsung’s QM3 (manufactured in Renault’s Spain plant) and GM Korea’s Impala (made in the U.S.) are labeled as imported items at Korean customs. Therefore they are imported cars and ought to be included in the sales statistics as imported cars. Only these carmakers will know why they aren’t joining KAIDA,” he said.
KAIDA, established in 1995, represents more than 500 models by 25 brands of 12 foreign automotive companies outside Korea. The group is responsible for the accumulation of the sales figure of its members, information about homologation and other procedures necessary for operation in Korea