This article has now been updated with the Top 100 foreign models.
New car sales in South Korea only owe their +1.3% edge in 2018 at 1.806.609 units to foreign manufacturers leaping up 12% to 261.005 and 14.4% share vs. 13.1% in 2017 whereas local carmakers edge down 0.3% to 1.545.604 and 85.6% share vs. 86.9%. Local behemoths Hyundai (-0.8%) and Kia (+1.9%) follow different routes this year but maintain their stranglehold on their home market with 36.5% and 29.4% share respectively. Ssangyong (+2.3%) is the only secondary Korean brand to show a positive scorecard for the year, rewarded with the #3 spot overall whereas Renault Samsung (-10.1%) and most disturbingly GM Korea (-29.5%) fall heavily. Mercedes (+2.8%) cements its position as the king of foreign brands with a sturdy 3.9% share, but Hyundai’s newly launched premium local brand Genesis (+158.8%) is making great progress in 7th place and 3.4% of its home market, now above BMW (-14.8%). Toyota (+43.4%) is the best performing mass foreign brand with Porsche (+53.6%), Rolls Royce (+41.4%), Volvo (+29.1%) and Peugeot (+21.1%) also posting stellar results further down. 2018 marks the return of Volkswagen (#10) and Audi (#12) after being kept out of the Korean market for almost two years due to stop-sales connected to the company’s emissions scandal.
The title of best-selling model in South Korea goes to the Hyundai Grandeur (-14.4%) for the second year in a row – and ever – and this despite a steep double-digit drop and only ranking #1 four times (January, February, November and December). This title should have logically gone to the Hyundai Santa Fe, whose new generation lifted it to the top spot from March to October without interruption, peaking at 13.076 sales in March alone, a new monthly record for the nameplate. But sales of the previous generation over the first two months of the year (adding up to 7.000) were too weak to enable the Santa Fe to ever take the advantage over the Grandeur YTD. It now looks like the opportunity for the Santa Fe to reproduce an annual pole position it only ever snapped in 2004 may have passed, as the new generation’s honey moon period now looks consumed (it dropped to #3 in December) and the arrival of the 7-seat Palisade (#26 in December) could dent its sales further. The Hyundai Porter (-3.4%) drops another spot to #3, the Kia Carnival (+11.7%) is up 3 to #4, overtaking the Hyundai Avante (-9.6%), Kia Sorento (-14.3%) and Hyundai Sonata (-20.4%). The Hyundai Kona (+114.6%) ends its first year in market inside the Top 10, helped by the arrival of an EV variant that lifted the model to a record 7th place in October and November. Other solid performers include the Kia K9 (+662.6%), Genesis G70 (+216.4%), Ssangyong Korando Sports (+83.4%), Kia K3 (+58%), Ray (+31.7%), K5 (+27%), Samsung QM6 (+18.5%) and Hyundai Grand Starex (+9.6%). 2018 launches are very discreet, led by the Renault Samsung Clio (#42), Hyundai Palisade (#51), Chevrolet Equinox (#53) and Hyundai Nexo (#58).
The Mercedes E-Class is the best-selling foreign nameplate in South Korea in 2018.
Over in the foreign models ranking, the Mercedes E-Class (+9.6%) cements its lead and edges past 35.500 sales, now over 12.000 units above its archenemy the BMW 5 Series (-2.6%) with BMW securing two spots on the podium with the 3 Series (-18.8%) remaining at #3 despite a steep loss. The Toyota Camry (+65.8%) on the other hand soars 5 spots to land at #4, less than 300 sales off a podium finish for 2018. The Lexus ES (+11.2%) holds onto the 5th spot ahead of the Mercedes GLC (+89.3%), the best performer in the Top 15, while the VW Tiguan (#8), Passat GT (#9) and Audi A3 (#16) all return in market after a 1.5 year-long stop-sale order linked with the company’s emissions scandal that put both Volkswagen and Audi on their knees in South Korea. The Audi A6 (+746.6%) also returning after a stop-sale, Volvo XC60 (+71%) and Land Rover Discovery (+61.8%) post the largest gains in the Top 30. The Peugeot 5008 (+757%), Porsche Panamera (+521%) and Range Rover Velar (+166%) also impress.
Previous year: South Korea 2017: First win for the Hyundai Grandeur
Two years ago: South Korea 2016: Hyundai Porter first LCV to #1
Full Year 2018 Top 30 All-brands, Top 65 All local models and Top 100 foreign models vs. Full Year 2017 figures below.
Full December 2018 Top 30 All-brands, Top 60 local models and Top 85 foreign models below.