This post has been updated with the Top 80 foreign models.
New car sales in South Korea edge down 0.5% year-on-year in March to 165.834 units, with once again very dynamic foreign carmakers up 20% to 26.402 failing to compensate for ailing local manufacturers down 4% to 139.432. Year-to-date, total volumes are now down 0.1% to 424.731 with the same situation repeating: foreign carmakers are up 23% to 67.405 but local manufacturers down 4% to 357.316. In March market leader Hyundai drops 1% to 37.2% share, well above its YTD level of 35.8% (-4%). It is followed as usual by sister brand Kia up 2% to 29.3%, exactly the same scores as YTD. Ssangyong remains the #3 brand in the country with stable sales this month (+0.2%).
GM Korea’s dire situation with rumours of folding up and the closure of at least one of its Korea plants triggers freefalling sales at -58% year-on-year and some unheard-of events again. Both Mercedes (+18%) and BMW (+14%) outsell GM Korea for the 2nd month running and ever. Added to this, Mercedes also sells more than Renault Samsung (-26%) to rank #4 overall. Genesis (+318%) is stuck at the bottom end of Korean brands. Further down, a long list of foreign carmakers post spectacular gains, such as Toyota (+85%), Porsche (+68%), Mini (+62%), Honda (+57%), Audi (+47%), Peugeot (+44%) and Land Rover (+34%). A momentous event also occurs in March: the return of Volkswagen in the South Korean charts at #20 after 16 months of absence due to a stop-sale ordered in the wake of its emissions scandal, starting with the Passat GT – the only model available in its South Korean lineup for now. The last time Volkswagen ranked in South Korea was in October 2016.
The fourth generation launched in late February propels the Hyundai Santa Fe directly into the local pole position with sales up 140% on the previous model in March 2017. It has become a bit of a routine now: when a new generation or a significant facelift is released, the Santa Fe briefly shoots to #1. It was the case in June 2012 when the third generation launched, and in July 2015 and September 2016 with subsequent facelifts. However this month the Santa Fe sells over 13.000 units, which our records show is a new monthly volume record for the nameplate, so its domination could be more lengthy. The Santa Fe topped the annual South Korean rankings once: in 2004.
The Santa Fe win puts an end to 15 consecutive months of Hyundai Grandeur domination, the sedan dropping a steep 21% in March. The Hyundai Porter (-9%), Kia Sorento (+10%) and Hyundai Avante (-15%) all lose one spot on February while the Kia Carnival (-12%) is up 6 to #6 and the Hyundai Sonata (-25%) down two to #7. Strong performers include the Hyundai Veloster (+1295%), Ssangyong G4 Rexton (+410%), Samsung SM5 (+115%), Kia K3 (+95%), Ray (+41%), K5 (+37%) and Ssangyong Korando Sports (+36%). We welcome the all-new Electric Fuel Cell Hyundai Nexo at #57 with 11 sales.
One year ago: South Korea March-April 2017: Hyundai Grandeur dominates
Full March 2018 Top 30 brands, Top 60 local models and Top 80 foreign models below.