Import car sales to consumers under 30 increased while the percentage of young customers in the overall market including Korean carmakers dropped last year.
According to the Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association, combined car sales by local and foreign automakers to consumers in their 20s stood at 140,777 units in 2011, down 6.4 percent from a year earlier.
Further, sales to consumers under 20 declined by 17.4 percent to 1,897 units.
As a result, the percentage of consumers under 30 dropped by 1.3 percentage to 10.9 percent.
The KAMA attributed the sagging sales to young consumers’ weakened purchasing power amid high oil prices and an economic slowdown.
Despite the overall slump in the automotive industry’s sales to young consumers, their purchase of import cars surged last year.
Import car sales to drivers under 30 increased by 36.1 percent on a year-on-year basis to reach 4,801 units.
“A noteworthy trend among young Koreans is that a certain portion of them choose to buy import cars rather than save money to buy a house,” a foreign car dealership spokeswoman said.
When consumers in their 30s are included in the category of young consumers, the ratio of young customers to total buyers of import cars surged by about 10 percentage in five years.
According to KAMA, the number of buyers of foreign-made cars in their 20s and 30s accounted for 22.7 percent of customers in 2011, compared to 12 percent in 2006.
The proportion of customers under 40 in the import automobile market, which was below 10 percent 10 years ago, continued to increase to 17.6 percent in 2009 and 20.3 percent in 2010.
For the first 11 months of 2011, the best-selling model among consumers in their 20s was the Nissan Cube. Other popular models included the Golf 2.0TDI of Volkswagen, the Mini Cooper and Audi A4 2.0 TFSI Quattro.
The BMW 520d was picked the most popular car among customers in their 30s, followed by the BMW 528, the Cube, the Golf and the Mini Cooper.
A foreign company executive said many imported car models with affordable prices are now also attractive to young drivers, adding that until the 1990s high-income male customers in their 40s and 50s were the mainstream customers.
They also say the number of Korean female drivers of foreign-made cars has been increasing recently, regardless of age.
By Kim Yon-se (email@example.com