By on November 8, 2011

Over the last few weeks we have visited PanamaColombiaChina and the USA in 1975. This week I thought we would go back to Asia for a little trip to South Korea.

The kingdom of Hyundai and Kia is up there with Germany and Japan when it comes to chauvinistic tastes: having an import model in the Top 30 best-sellers is a rare occurrence…

If you’re not a fan of Hyundais and Kia, well am afraid this article is not for you! But it’s ok, I’ve prepared 159 other countries for you to visit in my blog, and I can tell you it is 아주 좋은 (very good), so click away!

Hyundai and Kia truly are the kings of South Korea, both accounting for 9 of the 10 best-selling models last month…

The Hyundai Avante (aka Elantra) has been South Korea’s best-selling model for the last 5 months and is in pole position in October with 12,625 sales for a 10.4 percent market share, its highest share since January.

The new generation Kia Morning (aka Picanto) comes in 2nd place for the fourth consecutive month in October at 9,677 units and 8 percent share…

A massive hit (it was even #1 for a couple of months) at its launch last year, the Kia K5 (aka Optima) had slowed down during 2011 but is now back on the podium in October for the first time in 13 months with 9,138 sales and 7.6 percent share.

For a long time the best-selling model in South Korea (from 2005 to 2008), the Hyundai Sonata is 4th this month with 8,791 sales and 7.3 percent share and year-to-date at 85,190 units and 6.9 percent.

The Hyundai Porter is #5 with 7.2 percent, followed by the Hyundai Grandeur at 7.1 percent and the Hyundai Grand Starex and 4.3 percent.

During 2011 all Daewoos produced in the country were renamed Chevrolet and this is why we have the Chevrolet Spark in 8th place with 4.2 percent share.

The Kia Sportage closes the Top 10 with 4,370 sales and 3.6 percent share.

Notice also the Samsung SM5 (aka Renault Latitude) at #11, the familiar Chevrolet Cruze at #18…

and further down the ranking the Kia Pride (aka European Rio) at #21 and the Hyundai Veloster at #26.

 Korea October 2011 Top 30

Pos Model Oct %
1 Hyundai Avante 12,625 10.4%
2 Kia Morning 9,677 8.0%
3 Kia K5 9,138 7.6%
4 Hyundai Sonata 8,791 7.3%
5 Hyundai Porter 8,697 7.2%
6 Hyundai Grandeur 8,611 7.1%
7 Hyundai Grand Starex 5,175 4.3%
8 Chevrolet Spark 4,912 4.1%
9 Kia Bongo 4,476 3.7%
10 Kia Sportage R 4,370 3.6%
11 Samsung SM5 3,604 3.0%
12 Hyundai Tucson ix 3,299 2.7%
13 Kia Sorento R 3,286 2.7%
14 Hyundai Accent 2,326 1.9%
15 Kia Carnival R 2,262 1.9%
16 Samsung SM3 2,254 1.9%
17 Kia Forte 2,201 1.8%
18 Chevrolet Cruze 1,816 1.5%
19 Hyundai Santa Fe 1,724 1.4%
20 Chevrolet Orlando 1,612 1.3%

Korea year-to-date Top 30

Pos Model 2011 %
1 Hyundai Avante 110,162 8.9%
2 Kia Morning 100,845 8.1%
3 Hyundai Grandeur 92,019 7.4%
4 Hyundai Sonata 85,190 6.9%
5 Hyundai Porter 82,779 6.7%
6 Kia K5 72,565 5.9%
7 Chevrolet Spark 54,055 4.4%
8 Hyundai Grand Starex 43,791 3.5%
9 Kia Sportage R 43,368 3.5%
10 Kia Bongo 43,024 3.5%
11 Samsung SM5 42,016 3.4%
12 Hyundai Tucson ix 35,739 2.9%
13 Kia Sorento R 33,833 2.7%
14 Kia Forte 29,706 2.4%
15 Samsung SM3 29,026 2.3%
16 Chevrolet Cruze 23,590 1.9%
17 Kia Carnival R 22,198 1.8%
18 Hyundai Santa Fe 21,492 1.7%
19 Kia K7 19,761 1.6%
20 Hyundai Accent 19,698 1.6%

When it comes to imports, the figures come with one month delay and for September the BMW 520D and the Mercedes E300. Posh tastes in South Korea! (Notice the Ford Taurus in 10th place!)

Korea Imports Top 10 for September 2011

Pos Model Sep
1 BMW 520d 744
2 Mercedes E300 716
3 Nissan Cube 439
4 BMW 528 433
5 VW Tiguan 404
6 Audi A6 305
7 Mercedes CLS350 257
8 VW Golf 240
9 Toyota Camry 228
10 Ford Taurus 211

And now the moment you’ve all been waiting for: the weekly golden nugget! Well. Some South Korean models that are very successful around the globe are not even sold in South Korea! Fancy that!

Exhibit 1: the Hyundai i20

Exhibit 2: the Hyundai i30 (ok that’s a lie, it actually sells in South Korea but is only #42 with 226 units sold in October…)

Exhibit 3: the Kia Ceed

Exhibit 4; the Hyundai i10

And that’s all for today!

You are now an expert on the South Korean market. Yes sir!

More info on the South Korean car market in October 2011 can be found here, including a Top 40.

More info on the South Korean car market since 1997 can be found here.

Many thanks to DC at and for the data in this article.

Matt Gasnier, based in Sydney, Australia, runs a blog named Best Selling Cars, dedicated to counting cars all over the world.

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16 Comments on “Best Selling Cars Around The Globe: South Korea Sticks To Local Models...”

  • avatar

    The Korean cars have improved tremendously in the past 10 years. If they can keep the momentum going, while keeping prices from inflating too much, it will only be a few years until Hyundai and Kia start bumping their way up to the top of the list in the US.

    Hopefully the Koreans will give the complacent Japanese automakers incentive to get back to work.

  • avatar

    An 아주 좋은 what?

  • avatar

    I kind of want a Kia Bongo. I have no idea what it looks like, but the name says it all. The i10 looks like a subcompactish car that doesn’t hurt my head.

    Interesting write-up, Mr. Gasnier, with plenty of pictures for those of us with short attention spans (I generally don’t have one, but I’m on lunch and my mind wanders :D).

    Is Samsung the same group that makes phones and consumer electronics?

  • avatar

    The K5/Optima being back on top over the Sonata is due to greater supply now being available to the Korean market due to the start of US production of the Optima.

    For the year, the import share of the market is on target for being over 10%, but largely dominated by the Germans.

  • avatar

    Import car market? Well, for 2010, the OECD surveyed its member states for penetration of ‘foreign’ makes in their domestic auto markets. Guess who was at the bottom of the list, out of 28 ‘developed’ countries?
    Korea and Japan, with less than 5%. Coincidence?

  • avatar

    Those Top 30 charts sure look to only have twenty each to me.

  • avatar

    Actually, 아주 좋은 is an adjective used to describe something. So it’s like saying “It’s a very good (what?!?)”

    If you want to say ‘It’s very good!’ in Korean, you should say:

    “아주 좋습니다”

    • 0 avatar

      Bit more constructive now are you?

      • 0 avatar

        If you looked at the timehacks… I posted this one first, after reading the original post.

        And then saw that someone already posted a similar post. So I figured it deserved a response.

        And the ‘kekekekekeke’ should have tipped you off that it was in jest. Specially if you know Korean and some of the youth, internet-gaming, Starcraft-fanatic culture.

  • avatar

    Um, where are all the “fleet sales” commentators?

    No fun.

  • avatar

    Ugh, the spark looks even more awful with traditional chrome grille. At least the chevy grille kind of gives reason for its shape. That big chromey grille really looks out of place. Thankfully it probably no longer exist as it’s sold as Chevy now, thereby featuring the chevy grille.

  • avatar

    I really like the color of the Optima in the second picture. Anyway, isn’t it Cee’d not Ceed. I remember Top Gear makes fun of the apostrophe on a regular basis.

  • avatar

    I’m digging that Hyundai Grandeur.

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