Japanese car sales surge in Korea amid diplomatic thaw

2023.11.28 16:39:01 | 2023.11.28 17:51:22

Lexus ES 300h F Sport [Courtesy of Lexus]이미지 확대

Lexus ES 300h F Sport [Courtesy of Lexus]

The winds of change in South Korea’s relationship with Japan are impacting the automotive market, which is seeing a surge in the popularity of Japanese-brand vehicles. With rising sales figures, Toyota has adopted an aggressive expansion strategy, launching more than twice the number of diverse new models compared to 2022 in Korea, aiming for a broader market reach. The upcoming release of the Toyota Prius next month has garnered significant attention, sparking discussions about the potential ‘resurgence of Japanese cars’ in the Korean market.

According to data from automotive information portal Car Is You, Lexus saw a 93 percent year-on-year increase in sales, selling 11,007 units from January to October 2023. Similarly, Toyota recorded a 26.3 percent increase, selling 6,771 units during the same period.

The growth of Lexus and Toyota is attributed to their introduction of diverse new vehicle line-ups in Korea this year, maximizing the ‘new car effect.’ While Lexus launched three new models in the Korean market last year, the brand introduced a total of seven new models in 2023. Lexus unveiled the pure electric Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) RZ 450e and the new model SUV RX. Toyota, which had only introduced the sports car GR 86 in Korea last year, launched a total of four models this year, including the RAV4 Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV), Crown, Highlander, and Alphard. Toyota has released its newest models since entering the Korean market in 2023, and garnered significant attention by introducing the “Japanese Grandeur,” the Crown, to the Korean market after 51 years.

Leading sales and performance in Korea is the Lexus midsize sedan ES model. The Lexus ES sold a cumulative total of 6,616 units for the first ten months of this year, marking an 86.3 percent growth compared to a year ago.

But Honda saw a decline in sales in Korea, selling a total of 1,047 units during the same period or down 62.8 percent from a year ago. Industry experts attribute Honda’s poor performance to a lack of new car models and price increases.

By Park So-ra and Minu Kim

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