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Japan's Honda beefs up lineup to revive sales in S. Korea

Oct. 2, 2023 - 10:21 By Yonhap
This file photo provided by Honda Korea Co. shows the all-new Pilot SUV. (Yonhap)

Honda Korea Co. is beefing up its product lineup to revive sales after they plunged nearly 70 percent in the January-August period from a year earlier due mainly to a lack of new models.

Honda Korea Co. has recently launched two all-new models -- the 3.5-liter gasoline-powered Pilot and the 2.0-liter gasoline hybrid CR-V SUVs, while planning to add the Accord gasoline hybrid sedan to the lineup next month.

The Japanese carmaker had sold only two models, the 3.5-liter gasoline-powered Odyssey minivan and the 1.5-liter turbocharged gasoline CR-V SUV, before the addition of the new models.

The company expects the newly added and upcoming models will help improve its lackluster sales in Asia's fourth-biggest economy.

Honda Korea has fared worse than its Japanese peers this year.

Its vehicle sales plunged to 709 units in the first eight months from 2,277 in the year-ago period, according to the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association.

But Toyota Motor Korea Corp. posted a 27 percent jump in sales to 5,333 units from 4,188 during the same period. Toyota's luxury Lexus brand saw its sales more than double from 4,062 to 9,129 in Korea.

Japanese carmakers struggled with declining sales in Korea in the past couple of years as Seoul and Tokyo were at odds for a while over Tokyo's export curbs against Seoul in 2019.

In July 2019, Japan tightened regulations on exports to South Korea of three high-tech materials critical for the production of semiconductors and displays.

In the following month, Japan also removed South Korea from its list of countries given preferential treatment in trade procedures.

South Korea viewed the moves as retaliation against 2018 Supreme Court rulings here ordering Japanese firms to compensate Korean victims of forced labor during Japan's 1910-45 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula.

To catch up to its Japanese peers and other foreign carmakers, Honda opened its online platform in April to revive lackluster sales, while keeping nine offline dealerships for less tech-savvy customers.

South Korea is the second country for Honda to adopt an online platform for local sales after Australia, where the same platform was launched last year.

Honda said it has introduced the "one-price policy" for all of its vehicles to be sold in Korea to secure transparency once the online platform is adopted.

In Korea, US electric carmaker Telsa Inc. began to sell its vehicles through an online platform in 2017, and the new way to purchase cars received a strong response from young customers familiar with e-commerce deals.

Not only imported brands, such as BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Polestar, but local ones like Hyundai Motor Co., Renault Korea Motors and GM Korea Co. also adopted the online platform to gain a bigger share in the Korean automobile market.