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Foreign car firms look beyond Seoul

Publication Date : 08-08-2012


Foreign automakers in Korea are expanding their businesses in the nation’s major provincial cities as import vehicle sales continue to hit all-time highs.

The trend follows the growing percentage of sales in big regional cities. The proportion of import car sales in Seoul among the total in the nation stood at 19.2 per cent in July, down from 21.7 per cent a year before.

Gyeonggi Province and South Gyeongsang Province held the second and third position with 16.2 per cent and 15.4 per cent, respectively, in July.

Noticeably, Incheon and Busan saw their share increase rapidly - from 5.4 per cent and 7.5 per cent to 11.8 percent and 10.1 per cent on a year-on-year basis.

Daegu posted 9.6 percent last month, compared with 4.4 per cent a year earlier. Gwangju and Daejeon also followed suit.

Aside from its enhanced marketing activities by adding the number of showrooms, the import car industry is seeking to gain customer confidence by offering high-quality services in the regional cities.

Mercedes-Benz Korea said Tuesday that it has opened a larger service center in Haeundae Beach in Busan, the nation’s second-largest city, by upgrading the former one.

“The number of customers is continuously increasing in major cities as well as Seoul,” a company spokeswoman said. “Among our major targets are Busan and Incheon.”

She said the new service center in Haeundae will provide customers with premium services including free-of-charge car wash for both interior and exterior parts.

Mercedes-Benz, which holds the No. 2 position among import brands, plans to rev up its sales networks with new showrooms and service centers nationwide.

Jaguar-Land Rover Korea also recently expanded its service center in Busan.

The company, which has showrooms in Seoul and Busan, is now considering tapping smaller cities such as Jeonju, North Jeolla Province.

Meanwhile, the nation’s No. 1 import car brand BMW and the No. 3 Audi have been in heated competition to attract more provincial consumers.

BMW Group Korea, which is the distributor of the MINI model, has steadily secured its No. 1 position among the import brands over the past few years.

Audi Korea is carrying out aggressive marketing strategies in coordination with its parent Volkswagen Group.

An import car industry executive said that foreign automakers have picked Busan and the southeastern area as their second market after Seoul since customers there wouldn’t travel all the way to Seoul to buy cars.

“Now the brands are reaching for Daejeon, as the city’s demand for foreign cars has increased and its logistics importance has grown,” he said.

Import car brands broke the all-time high record in vehicle sales for the third consecutive month so far this year.

After attaining record figures in March and again in April, foreign carmakers saw their combined sales come to a fresh high of 11,708 units in May, according to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association.

“The record-breaking streak for three months in a row is noteworthy because the former record before March 2012 was the figure posted a year before (10,290 units in March 2011),” a KAIDA spokesperson said.


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