Will Volkswagen Cheating Scandal Hit Imported Cars?

  • By Choi Hyun-mook

    September 24, 2015 11:21

    The Volkswagen emissions scandal is expected to put a damper on soaring sales of imported European cars in Korea. Some 158,739 imported cars were sold here from January to August, up 23 percent compared to the same period of 2014. German carmakers BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen held the top three spots, grabbing a 56-percent share of the import market.

    But one of the main selling points of German cars was their supposed "clean diesel" engines that combine environmentally friendly technology with high efficiency. In the case of Volkswagen and Audi, that very point has now been exposed as a sham.

    Some 68 percent of the 119,832 imported cars sold in Korea in the first half of this year were diesel vehicles. Hyundai and affiliate Kia have also been rolling out new diesel models aiming to tap into their rising popularity.

    Foreign carmakers are troubled by the latest scandal. One staffer with a German carmaker here said, "The market for imported cars in Korea was growing rapidly, but now we are concerned that the Volkswagen scandal will damage the image of all imported cars sold here."

    Koreans have had a mixed attitude to foreign cars for some time. One big spender made headlines a few weeks ago when he drove his W290 million Mercedes-Benz sedan up to a dealership in Gwangju and smashed it up with a golf club, apparently to protest against slow after-sales service (US$1=W1,191).

    Media reports also regularly flag the expensive repair costs and insurance fees compared to the homegrown equivalent. Separately, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport on Wednesday ordered BMW to recall around 55,000 cars, including the 5 Series and MINI, after a flaw was discovered that could cause engines to shut down while driving.

    Kim Ki-chan at Catholic University said, "The popularity of European cars could decline due to the Volkswagen scandal, which could mean opportunities for Korean carmakers."

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