In the previous month, the sales of imported cars witnessed a decline compared to the same period in the previous year. However, amidst this overall decrease, an interesting trend emerged—the demand for high-end models with price tags exceeding 100 million won (equivalent to US$77,892) experienced a significant upswing. This remarkable surge in sales suggests an enduring preference for luxury vehicles among the affluent strata of society, as high-income earners continue to actively explore opportunities in the Korean automotive market.
According to recent data released by the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA) on June 19, a total of 103,933 imported cars were sold in Korea between January and May of this year. This figure reflects a 4.0% drop when compared to the corresponding period in the previous year. Notably, out of these total sales, a considerable portion—amounting to 28,782 units or 27.6%—comprised vehicles priced at 100 million won or above. Astoundingly, this implies that one in every four imported cars traversing Korean roads today boasts a price tag surpassing the 100 million won mark.
Moreover, the proportion of high-end models in relation to the total sales of imported cars has been consistently on the rise. In the year 2017, this proportion stood at 10.2%, which increased marginally to 10.9% in 2018 and further escalated to 11.84% in 2019. The upward trajectory continued in 2020, with the proportion surging to 15.71%. The subsequent year, 2021, witnessed a remarkable leap, reaching an impressive 23.59%. Finally, last year’s statistics recorded a significant milestone of 25.36%, highlighting the growing appeal and demand for luxury vehicles among Korean consumers.
When it comes to luxury model sales, Mercedes Benz emerges as a prominent player in the Korean market. The sales figures for Mercedes vehicles priced above 100 million won exhibited a remarkable surge, nearly doubling from 1,212 units in January of this year to an impressive 2,840 units in the previous month. Consequently, the cumulative sales of Mercedes vehicles reached a staggering 11,611 units, securing the top spot among all imported car brands in Korea.
BMW, another esteemed luxury brand, also experienced a notable increase in the sales of cars priced over 100 million won. Their sales escalated from 1,274 units in January to 1,602 units in the recent month, resulting in a cumulative sales volume of 7,206 units. While Mercedes dominated in terms of overall sales, BMW showcased a commendable performance in capturing a significant portion of the luxury car market.
In addition to established luxury brands like Mercedes and BMW, the rise of supercar brands is garnering attention. Porsche, renowned for its high-performance vehicles, witnessed a remarkable 27% increase in cumulative sales this year compared to the same period in the previous year, reaching an impressive total of 5,117 units. The monthly sales figures for Porsche in 2023 displayed a consistent growth trend, with 1,212 units sold in January, 2,085 units in February, 2,488 units in March, and 2,986 units in April. Although there was a slight decline of 4.8% to 2,840 units in the previous month compared to the preceding month, if this positive trend persists, Porsche is poised to achieve a cumulative sales volume of 10,000 units.
The combined success of luxury brands such as Mercedes, BMW, and the rising prominence of supercar manufacturers like Porsche reflect the enduring allure and increasing demand for high-end vehicles in the Korean automotive market.
In the same period under review, the supercar segment in Korea experienced notable growth, with Bentley, Lamborghini, and Rolls-Royce achieving remarkable sales figures. Bentley, synonymous with refined luxury, witnessed a substantial 11% increase, selling a total of 292 units. Lamborghini, renowned for its exhilarating sports cars, showcased an impressive surge of 26% in sales, with 143 units finding new owners. Rolls-Royce, the epitome of elegance and prestige, also recorded a commendable growth rate of 10%, selling 111 units. These double-digit growth rates across these luxury car brands highlight the rising demand and popularity of supercars among high-income earners in Korea.
An industry insider commented on this trend, emphasizing the continuous expansion of the supercar market in Korea, primarily fueled by the preference of affluent customers. Additionally, the insider mentioned the likelihood of new brands entering the Korean market, indicating the growing opportunities and potential for further diversification within the luxury car segment.
As the competition intensifies in the luxury imported car market, brands are strategically focusing on launching more exclusive and higher-priced models to cater to the discerning tastes of affluent consumers. Rolls-Royce, one of the world’s top three luxury car manufacturers, made a significant announcement with the introduction of their first electric vehicle, SPECTRE, in Korea on June 16. This marked a significant milestone as it became the brand’s inaugural release in the Asia-Pacific region. With a starting price of at least 622 million won (equivalent to US$484,448), SPECTRE garnered immense attention and demand in Korea, surpassing pre-order figures in the Asia-Pacific region. The vehicle is expected to be delivered to customers in a sequential manner starting from the fourth quarter of this year, further enhancing the anticipation and excitement surrounding Rolls-Royce’s foray into the electric vehicle market.
Rolls-Royce Motor Cars Asia Pacific, led by Irene Nikkein, recognizes the growing significance of the Korean market and considers it one of the fastest-growing countries for the brand. The sales figures for Rolls-Royce vehicles in Korea demonstrate a steady upward trajectory over the past few years, reflecting the increasing demand and strong market presence. In 2019, 161 Rolls-Royce units were sold, followed by 171 units in 2020. The numbers continued to rise, reaching 225 units in 2021 and further climbing to 234 units in 2022. These figures highlight the consistent growth and rising popularity of Rolls-Royce vehicles among Korean luxury car enthusiasts.
In line with the prevailing trend of introducing exclusive and captivating models to the Korean market, Ferrari made an impressive debut with the unveiling of the Ferrari Roma Spider. This convertible sports car boasts a front engine and a soft top, creating an exhilarating driving experience. The exact price of this stunning vehicle was not disclosed during the launch event, but industry experts anticipate it to be within the mid-300 million won range. The Ferrari Roma Spider captivated car enthusiasts with its striking design and powerful performance, further contributing to the ever-growing portfolio of luxury sports cars in Korea.
Lamborghini, another renowned name in the supercar realm, is set to make a significant introduction to the Korean market. On June 23, the brand will showcase its first plug-in hybrid vehicle (PHEV), named Revuelto. Anticipation for this environmentally friendly yet high-performance model has been remarkably high, with two years’ worth of orders already in place. Priced at 795 million won (equivalent to US$619,267) per unit, the Lamborghini Revuelto offers a compelling blend of sustainable technology and thrilling driving dynamics, catering to the discerning tastes of Korean luxury car enthusiasts.
These recent developments from Rolls-Royce, Ferrari, and Lamborghini highlight the continuous efforts of luxury car brands to capture the attention of Korean consumers by introducing innovative and desirable models to the market. The growing interest and demand for high-end vehicles among Korean customers contribute to the vibrant and dynamic landscape of the luxury car industry in the country.