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March 02, 2024

BMW, Mercedes-Benz duel to be No. 1 importer in Korea

PUBLISHED : December 07, 2023 - 09:52

UPDATED : December 07, 2023 - 09:52

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The BMW 5 Series (left) and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class (Provided by each company)

The race to be South Korea’s top auto importer is coming down to the wire as BMW tries to reclaim the No. 1 position from Mercedes-Benz for the first time since 2015.

According to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association’s report released Tuesday, BMW sold 69,546 vehicles in the Korean market from January to November. Mercedes-Benz sold 68,156 units in the same period, 1,390 cars less than BMW.

The bestselling models of the two German automakers are the BMW 5 Series and the Mercedes-Benz E-Class. The former has sold 18,907 units and the latter, which is the bestselling model among all imported vehicles in Korea, has sold 22,211 units so far this year.

Up until July, it appeared to be smooth sailing for BMW to reclaim the top importer of the year status for the first time in eight years, as its accumulated sales were some 3,000 units more than Mercedes-Benz to give the automaker a comfortable lead.

However, Mercedes-Benz started catching, up as it rolled out discounts and promotions in August. With the New E-Class slated to hit the domestic market in the first half of next year, the automaker has been carrying out discounts of up to 10 million won ($7,600) to offer the existing E-Class at a price as low as a little over 60 million won. As a result, Mercedes-Benz took the monthly top auto importer spot for four months in a row while selling over 10,000 units of the E-Class just between September and November.

To cope with the fierce competition, BMW selected Korea as the first country for the global launch of the New 5 Series in October. According to online car shopping platform Getcha on Wednesday, BMW’s latest premium sedan was already having discounts of 4.5 million won despite its recent debut in the market.

According to the KAIDA report, Mercedes-Benz sold 7,168 units and BMW sold 7,032 units in November. Given this, the current gap of over 1,300 units between BMW and Mercedes-Benz may seem too large to be filled with just one month left for this year’s calendar. However, large-scale, aggressive promotions can turn things around and impact the standings quickly.

Last year’s competition came down to the very last month. BMW was 188 units ahead of Mercedes-Benz in total sales in November, raising the possibility it might regain top auto importer status. However, the final results after December showed that Mercedes-Benz once again continued its reign at the top, as it sold 80,976 units, 2,341 cars more than BMW, for 2022.

By Kan Hyeong-woo  (hwkan@heraldcorp.com)

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