Import car companies aim to sell 215,000 units in 2015, up 10 pct from this year

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SEOUL, Nov 29  (Yonhap-MCOT online news) Import car companies, which have been on a roll in recent years in South Korea, said Friday that they are aiming to sell 215,000 units in the new year, up 10 percent from 2014.

In a meeting with the local automotive press, Yoon Dae-sung, executive managing director of the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association (KAIDA), said next year’s target reflects steadily rising demand and the growing competitiveness of import cars in the country.

For this year, he said sales will likely hover around 195,000, a new annual record, and a gain of some 24 percent from 2013.

“People in their 30s were the largest customers in terms of age groups, accounting for 38 percent of all sales, with diesels and vehicles with an engine displacement under 2,000 cc making up a large portion of the cars sold,” the executive said.

Imports account for more than 14 percent of all new cars sold in Asia’s fourth-largest economy, with new sales records being set every year. This is a sharp rise from less than 1 percent in 2000.

He pointed out that this year represented the introduction of all-electric vehicles into the market in the form of the BMWi3 and Nissan Leaf.

Such cars, he said, can help import carmakers meet the greater emphasis on lowering emissions being mandated by governments worldwide. The Seoul metropolitan government has said that average CO2 emissions must come down to 97 grams for a kilometer traveled.

Yoon added that 2014 was a landmark year because all tariffs levied on European cars were abolished, three years after South Korea and the European Union signed a free trade pact.

“In terms of sales, the combined number of foreign cars sold in the country already exceeds the output by GM Korea Co.,” he said. GM Korea is the local unit of U.S. auto giant General Motors Co.

Despite such gains, Jung Jae H., president of Ford Sales & Service Korea Co. said the South Korean market posed challenges, with the government taking steps to regulate the market, and stiffer competition from local carmakers.

The executive, who holds the post of KAIDA chairman, said import carmakers plan to overcome such challenges by introducing new models and strengthening marketing and customer service, which can push up sales.

According to a report by Market Insight, an industry think tank, the domestic market for import cars could grow as high as 21 percent in the next three years, which will firmly establish imports as a presence in the country.

There are some 24 foreign car brands that sell cars in South Korea, up from just 15 in 1995.