Mercedes-Benz and BMW sold more cars in Korea than in Japan for the first time in history from January to April this year.
The Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association and its Japanese counterpart said Mercedes-Benz sold 24,877 cars in Korea and BMW 18,115 in the first four months of this year, up 48 percent and 32.4 percent from a year ago. But in Japan, Mercedes sold 21,370 cars and BMW 15,818 in the same period, up 0.7 and 2.2 percent.
Japan's population of 120 million is nearly double the size of Korea's and the car market there is more than twice the size. On average, 4.8 million new cars are sold in Japan every year but just 1.82 million in Korea.
But Mercedes and BMW have expanded extremely quickly in Korea, posting average growth of over 40 percent while imported cars made up 14.5 percent of newly registered cars in Korea last year. In Japan, they make up just six percent of all cars in Japan.
Another reason the two German carmakers fare less well in Japan is that consumers are more sophisticated there and prefer small cars, while Koreans are still obsessed with big status symbols.
Mercedes-Benz and BMW may also have benefited from a sales ban on some Volkswagens and Audis in the wake of Volkswagen's emissions-rigging scandal. In Japan, where there was no such ban, 16,493 Volkswagens and 8,396 Audis were sold from January to April this year while in Korea no Volkswagens and only 917 Audis were sold.