US automakers overtook Japanese brands to take the No. 2 spot in the imported car market in South Korea last year, a report showed Sunday, taking advantage of local consumers’ boycott of Japanese products over trade and wartime legacy disputes.
A total of 46,000 cars from US automakers were sold in South Korea last year, accounting for 15.2 percent of the overall imported car sales, according to data by the Korean Automobile Manufacturers Association (KAMA).
German brands topped the ranking with 187,000 units for a 61.7 percent market share, while Japanese makers slipped to the third spot after their sales reached only 21,000 units for a 7 percent share.
Sales of Japanese cars have declined for two consecutive years in South Korea since Tokyo placed export curbs on Seoul in 2019, while the prolonged wartime forced labor and sexual slavery issues also frayed bilateral relationship between the two nations.
In contrast, sales of US vehicles have been increasing since 2017, benefiting from the US-South Korea free tree trade agreement.
The data showed South Korea became the ninth-largest auto market for the US in 2020 after Americans shipped 67,000 vehicles, or 2.8 percent of its total auto exports, to Seoul.
KAMA said the market share of South Korean brands in the US auto market is also expanding, with the combined market share of Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Corp. reaching 8.5 percent in 2020, which is close to their largest market share of 8.9 percent in 2011.
Hyundai and Kia combined for a 9.4 percent market share in the US in the first five months of 2021.
GM Korea Co.’s increased auto exports have also helped expand the presence of South Korean-made vehicles in the US
The South Korean unit of General Motors Co. last year shipped 233,000 units to the US Of the 227,000 small SUVs sold in the US, 80.2 percent, or 182,000 units, were produced by GM Korea, according to KAMA.