By Choi Kyong-ae

Audi Volkswagen Korea ranked 3rd in domestic sales last year beating the country’s third-biggest carmaker GM Korea, car sales data showed Thursday.

The German carmaker posted 266 trillion won ($2. 4 billion) in sales last year, jumping 24 percent from 215 trillion won a year earlier The outcome outpaced GM Korea’s local sales of 250 trillion won last year, according to the companies.

“It is the first time for an imported carmaker to form the Big 3 carmakers in Korea which has been largely dominated by Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors and GM Korea,” a spokesman for Audi Volkswagen Korea said.

Audi Volkswagen’s strong performance shows the growing appetite among Korean consumers for imported cars, particularly for German vehicles, in recent years following the free-trade agreements with Europe which took effect in July 2011.

“This year, we expect a stronger growth in imported car market given a 32 percent sales growth in the first quarter alone. Imported carmakers such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz grabbed a share of 14 percent of the passenger car market last year, up from 10 percent in 2012,” an official at the Korea Automobile Importers amp Distributors Association (KAIDA) said.

Their market share reached 17 percent in the January-March period, the official said.

Nearly eight out of all imported cars sold in Korea in 2014 were from Europe. Seven out of non-Korean vehicles sold here were from Germany. Imported carmakers sold a total 196,359 autos last year, up 25 percent from a year before, according to KAIDA data

KAIDA forecast imported car sales will reach 215,000 units in 2015.

Audi Volkswagen’s net profit also soared 30 percent to 40. 68 billion won last year from 31.26 billion won a year earlier, reflecting Koreans’ increasing preference for imported cars due mainly to declines in prices.

In domestic sales, Hyundai and Kia remained unrivaled posting 18.03 trillion won and 931 trillion won, respectively, in 2014. The two, which together form the world’s fifth-biggest carmaker by sales units, accounted for 70 percent of the country’s passenger car market last year

SOURCE: The Korea Times