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Are Korean drivers losing appetite for EVs?

Jan. 30, 2024 - 15:28 By Moon Joon-hyun
An electric vehicle charging station at a supermarket in Seoul. (Newsis)

A recent survey released Tuesday by Encar, the largest used car platform in Korea, has revealed a shift in consumer preferences toward gasoline vehicles for new car purchases in 2024, with them regaining prominence over hybrids and electric vehicles, which were the top choices in 2022.

The survey, titled "What's Your Next Car in 2024?" and conducted over a week in mid-January, involved 2,090 participants. 65.3 percent of these car owners plan to sell their current vehicles, primarily sedans and sport utility vehicles, this year. About half of these existing vehicles are gasoline-powered, with diesel engines accounting for 37 percent.

On the buying front, an overwhelming majority, 80 percent, said they were eyeing a new vehicle purchase in 2024. Gasoline engines are the top choice for nearly half of these potential buyers at 47.9 percent, a notable resurgence since 2022.

Hybrids maintain a relatively stable appeal at 25.8 percent, but electric vehicles have seen a considerable drop in popularity, now at just 6.8 percent. This is a significant change from Encar's 2022 survey, where hybrids and EVs topped the fuel preference ranking at 31.7 percent and 28.2 percent, respectively.

Encar attributed the decline to several environmental factors, including the still-developing electric vehicle charging infrastructure in Korea.

SUVs and recreational vehicles are the most sought-after vehicle types for new purchases, capturing the interest of nearly half (47.1 percent) of prospective buyers. Sedans also remain a favored option, with nearly 40 percent considering them. Other vehicle types like light cars, hatchbacks, coupes and trucks collectively attract less than 15 percent of buyers' interest.

Diverse motivations drive these new purchases. Lifestyle changes influence 32.7 percent of buyers, while 27.6 percent seek a different vehicle size. For 18.5 percent, it's simply a change of heart, and 12 percent are motivated by their current vehicle's frequent breakdowns.

On purchasing channels, digital platforms emerge as the go-to choice, with approximately two-thirds (67.2 percent) of potential buyers opting for online used car trading apps and sites.