April 29, 2015 13:00
Japanese cars are enjoying renewed popularity here thanks to low fuel prices and the weak yen.
Until last year, Japanese cars struggled in Korea as they were behind developing energy-efficient diesel cars, while European cars gained a price advantage thanks to the Korea-EU FTA. But the situation changed dramatically when oil prices fell from US$100 in October last year to $65 and the yen plunged.
The Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association on Tuesday said sales of Japanese cars in the first quarter rose by 38.2 percent compared to a year ago, surpassing the 32.2 percent growth achieved by European brands.
Sales of Honda, Lexus, Nissan and Toyota all rose above the overall average 32.7 percent for imported cars. The Toyota Camry was the best-selling imported gasoline car last month, and the Honda Accord 2.4 came third. Japanese cars made up half of the top 10.
The biggest driver behind the performance is their competitive price. Japanese carmakers froze or lowered their prices here when they released a number of new cars in the second half of last year. Normally they increase them.
Japanese brands are also more aggressively targeting the Korean market, especially the hybrid market, with the release of new versions of the Honda Accord and New CR-V, Infiniti Q50, Nissan Qashqai, and Toyota Camry.
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