Sales of imported cars in South Korea fell 3.1 percent in January from a year earlier due to lower demand for Japanese brands amid trade tensions between Seoul and Tokyo, an industry association said Wednesday.
The number of newly registered foreign vehicles fell to 17,640 units last month from 18,198 in January 2019, according to the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association.
"Local consumer sentiment against Japanese products continued to affect overall imported vehicle sales," a KAIDA spokeswoman said over the phone.
Japanese carmakers saw their sales plunge to 1,320 units in South Korea last month from 3,752 a year ago, KAIDA said in a statement.
Five Japanese brands are available in the Korean passenger vehicle market -- Toyota Motor Corp., its luxury brand Lexus, Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co. and its premium brand Infiniti.
Last July, Japan tightened regulations on exports to South Korea of three high-tech materials critical for the production of semiconductors and displays. In August, Japan officially removed South Korea from its list of countries given preferential treatment in trade procedures.
The Japanese moves are widely seen as retaliation against court rulings here that ordered Japanese firms to compensate South Korean victims of forced labor during Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.
The three best-selling models were Volkswagen's Arteon 2.0 TDI sedan, Mercedes-Benz's E 300 4MATIC sedan and GM Korea's Chevrolet Colorado pickup, KAIDA said. (Yonhap)