Imported car sales in South Korea are expected to grow over 8 percent next year, but the growth rate will be much slower than this year's estimate, apparently affected by less strong demand for diesel cars, an industry association said Wednesday.
In its market outlook for next year, the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association (KAIDA) expected that imported car sales in Korea will grow 8.5 percent on-year to 255,000 units in 2016.
"We expect foreign vehicle sales to grow 8.5 percent in 2016 compared with this year, which is a conservative projection," Yoon Dae-sung, an executive manager of KAIDA, told reporters during an event in Seoul to mark the 20th anniversary of the organization's inception.
"Foreign brands will focus more on the so-called qualitative improvement for next year," he added.
KAIDA expected that foreign car sales in Korea have grown around 20 percent given the sales numbers available so far this year. During the January-October period, a total of 196,543 imported vehicles had been sold.
As for the diesel car market hit hard by Volkswagen's recent emission fabrication scandal, Yoon said that demand for such vehicles could be slowing down given that it had spiked in recent years. He added that Volkswagen's cheating on emissions could make it harder to predict the market direction.
"As far as the imported car market here is concerned, we expect that such a steep growth will be unlikely down the road," Yoon said. "There is still room (for growth), but it is also true that the recent scandal makes it hard to predict."
Diesel vehicles have been relatively popular among Korean customers, as they take up about 70 percent of sales.
Asked about the Volkswagen scandal, Dimitris Psillakis, vice chairman of KAIDA, said that it surely is a negative incident but should not be a reason to condemn the whole industry.
"It is a very clear point made by all CEOs of automotive companies around the world, including Volkswagen Group's new CEO that this was a very negative and a very bad incident that has happened," said Psillakis, who is also the CEO of Mercedes-Benz Korea.
"We should not take one incident as a reason to condemn a technology or to condemn a country or to condemn any industry," he said, emphasizing that the latest scandal should be a chance for the whole industry to think about standardized regulations and tests that better reflect actual road conditions.