U.S. Imports All The Rage In South Korea

Derek Kreindler
by Derek Kreindler

While Japan may be a “closed market” in the eyes of some, imported cars from America are all the rage in South Korea. Honda is planning on sending no fewer than six American-made cars; the Civic, Accord, Odyssey, CR-V, Crosstour and Pilot will all be sent to South Korea as Honda attempts to become a net exporter of American made vehicles.

The Wall Street Journal cites the abolition of South Korean tarrifs on American and European-made vehicles by 2016 as one factor that should help send more American made cars and trucks to the Asian nation. Nissan and Toyota are getting in on the act too, with vehicles like the Nissan Altima, Infiniti JX and Toyota Venza making their way over.

Imported vehicles in South Korea have long been the sole domain of top-tier luxury brands, and carried appropriately expensive pricetags to boot. But the introduction of more accessible brands like Honda and Nissan should help imports capture 10 percent of South Korea’s auto market – roughly double what they held 5 years ago.

Derek Kreindler
Derek Kreindler

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  • Corey Lewis Corey Lewis on Dec 06, 2012

    The problem with this is that Koreans still have hostility toward the Japanese. I taught English for a year there, and brought up cars to children a couple times in class. I drew a Toyota and a Honda emblem, with some others. Reactions were: Toyota - "Oh this is Japan. Very bad." Honda - "This is Hyundai?" "No, it is Honda." "Oh, Japan car. Bad."

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    • Bd2 Bd2 on Dec 12, 2012

      @Bertel Schmitt Whether its Afghanistan or the US, the populace gets more conservative and "anti-foreigner" as you leave the major urban areas and go to the smaller cities, towns and rural areas. But even with that, a major reason why imports have a harder time outside the major urban areas is that parts and service for repairs are harder to come by and more expensive than for domestic brands.

  • Corntrollio Corntrollio on Dec 06, 2012

    I'm surprised that Koreans would want to buy cars that large, but I guess if you are importing a car, you have enough money.

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    • Bd2 Bd2 on Dec 12, 2012

      The Korean auto market is more like the US auto market when it comes to cars - they prefer mid to full size sedans. There's a reason why models like the Sonata and Azera are among the top sellers in Korea and why both the 5 and 7 Series outsell the 3 Series.

  • Challenger2012 Challenger2012 on Dec 06, 2012

    Herr Schmitt. Do you think GM and Ford would be received well in Korea if they imported vehicles, such the equinox, fusion, focus, cruze, fiesta,etc?

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    • Bd2 Bd2 on Dec 12, 2012

      As stated GM already has a pretty large presence in SK with GM Korea (the Chevy brand is more popular than the old Daewoo brand; Chevy badge replacement kits were pretty big sellers). It only makes sense financially for GM Korea to import from the US luxury models - but this is where GM has it work cut out for it, trying to compete with the Germans in the luxury segment (hopefully the new/larger CTS and the Omega flagship will change Cadillac's fortunes not only in the US, but in overseas markets like Korea).

  • Signal11 Signal11 on Dec 06, 2012

    "Imported vehicles in South Korea have long been the sole domain of top-tier luxury brands" Nonsense. I see quite a few Fords (imports), Peugeots, Hondas and Toyotas running around even in the smaller cities in Korea. There's even a Subaru dealership right across the street from main train station in Seoul, on the opposite side from the MINI dealership. I've been in two separate Ford Fusion taxis in provincial cities out in the sticks. (Right alongside Grandeur/Azera taxis, Derek.)

    • Bd2 Bd2 on Dec 12, 2012

      Agreed. A no. of years ago, the Honda Accord and CR-V were among the top selling imports but the rising Yen but a stop to that.