December 26, 2016 10:57
With sales of foreign cars poised to fall for the first time in seven years this year, importers have lined up a series of new models whose releases are expected to fuel a market rebound in 2017.
The Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association forecasts total sales of imported vehicles at 258,000 units this year, down 9.1 percent from last year in the aftermath of the Volkswagen emissions scandal. Domestic automakers are also likely to suffer a sales drop of about one percent.
The outlook for 2017 is quite different. Imported cars will likely see sales grow 4.7 percent on the strength of a series of new releases, while sales of domestic cars will suffer a four percent drop.
"A number of new models will hit the imported car market next year, mainly SUVs and eco-friendly models like hybrids and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles," said Yoon Dae-sung of the KAIDA.
The most eagerly awaited is BMW's 5 Series sedan, to be released in late February. BMW is banking on the completely revamped model to reclaim the No. 1 position among foreign brands here from Mercedes-Benz. BMW dominated the import market for seven years until it was outpaced by Mercedes-Benz, which is expanding its lineup in a bid to tighten its grip on the helm.
SUVs are expected to remain popular. Ford will release a partly redesigned version of its Kuga small SUV in the first quarter next year, while BMW hopes to regain its dominance in the segment with the X3 compact SUV. Peugeot's lineup includes an overhauled 3008 mid-sized SUV and the 5008 large SUV, which has been unavailable here. Volvo will join the fray in the first half of 2017 with the V90 Cross Country, and its popular new SUV, the XC60, will arrive in the latter half.
Competition in the premium SUV segment is set to grow even fiercer with Cadillac's Escalade large SUV and Bentley's first SUV, the Bentayga, due to be released.
Eco-friendly models to be rolled out include the plug-in hybrid electric version of Toyota's Prius and the hybrid version of the Honda Accord sedan, which will hit the market in January.
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