THE UK is now the largest new car market in the EU for South Korean car brands, according to new figures from trade body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders.
The growing strength of the automotive relationship between the UK and South Korea has been highlighted by the SMMT during its trade mission to the east Asian country. It said 190,215 British motorists chose cars with South Korean badges last year, with Kia, Hyundai and SsangYong models accounting for around one in 13 (7.5 per cent) of new car registrations – up from 60,460 (2.5 per cent) in 2007.
Meanwhile, British consumers are also responsible for boosting output at South Korean car factories, with UK demand for models built in the country hitting record levels in 2017. The UK imported 103,078 South Korean-made cars last year – up by 93 per cent since 2010. Over the same period, UK production of cars for South Korean buyers has risen more than fourfold, with 20,698 models exported to the country last year.
The Kia Sportage was the top South Korean vehicle registered in the UK last year, followed in turn by the Hyundai Tucson, Hyundai i10, Kia Picanto and Hyundai i20. Meanwhile, the best-selling British-built vehicle in South Korea in 2017 was the Mini One, with the Land Rover Discovery Sport, Land Rover Discovery, Range Rover Evoque and Jaguar XF in second, third, fourth and fifth places respectively.
South Korea is now Britain’s third-largest Asian car export market after China and Japan, with growth attributed to an increasing appetite among South Korean motorists for the UK’s wide range of premium, luxury and high-performance vehicles. After Germany, the UK is the EU’s second-biggest manufacturer of premium products, including iconic British brands Aston Martin, Bentley, Jaguar Land Rover, Lotus, McLaren, Mini and Rolls-Royce.
The recent growth in bilateral trade has been enabled by the EU-Korea Free Trade Agreement (FTA), applied in 2011, which enables cars and components to move across borders without tariffs, and the SMMT said that to ensure both markets continued to benefit in future it was crucial that this arrangement remained in place beyond Brexit next March.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes, pictured right with the UK’s ambassador to South Korea, Simon Smith, said: ‘The UK’s automotive relationship with Korea goes back many years and today the motor trade between our two countries goes from strength to strength. Britain is one of the most important global markets for Korean manufacturers and vice versa, with consumers in both countries benefiting from a huge choice of cutting-edge models.
‘With the UK’s reputation for world-class engineering, and its position as a test bed for the next generation of connected, autonomous and zero-emission vehicles, strengthening our trade links with global automotive leaders such as Korea can only bring mutual success.’
The SMMT and a delegation of its UK-based members are in South Korea this week on a trade mission to explore new business opportunities. It will provide a greater understanding for UK companies of the South Korean market and include visits to Seoul, Daegu and Gwangju.
The trade body will also take part in the 4th Industrial Revolution Conference and Green Car Korea Show to show the capabilities of UK Automotive.
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