Koreans prefer small imported cars to large models

SEOUL, May 27 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's increasingly price-conscious consumers have been shifting their appetite for imported cars to small and compact models from larger ones, industry data showed Monday.

As recently as 2008, sales of mid- and large-sized foreign cars accounted for 65.8 percent, or 40,584 units, of the imported vehicle market, according to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association.

At that time, foreign cars with an engine capacity of less than 2,000cc accounted for 26.2 percent or 6,123 units.

However, the share of small and compact cars surged to 53.5 percent in the first four months of this year, selling a total of 25,826 vehicles.

Foreign carmakers managed to sell 15,665 cars with 2,000cc-3,000cc engines between January and April, accounting for 32.4 percent of the total, according to the association.

The shift toward small and compact foreign cars comes as people in their 30s emerged as the main consumers of imported cars amid a steady rise of foreign car sales in South Korea.

In the past, foreign-made cars had been reserved for rich, middle-aged businessmen in South Korea.

In 2011, a total of 105,037 units of imported cars were sold in South Korea, topping the 100,000 level for the first time since 1987 when the country began to import foreign brand cars.

Last year, a total of 130,858 foreign-made cars were sold, up 24.6 percent from 105,037 units tallied a year ago, according to the association.

In another change in consumer preferences, the number of South Korean drivers who opt for diesel-powered cars has increased in recent years, according to the association.

In 2008, a total of 50,917 gasoline-powered foreign vehicles were sold, accounting for 82.6 percent, while sales of diesel-powered cars accounted for 16.4 percent with 10,094 units being sold.

However, a total of 29,478 diesel-powered foreign cars were sold in the first four months of this year, or 61.1 percent, while gasoline-powered foreign vehicles accounted for 35.4 percent or 17,070 units.

The shift comes as European carmakers introduced diesel-powered cars that have better fuel efficiency and emit less carbon dioxide, one of the greenhouse gases largely responsible for global warming.

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