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YANGPYEONG, South Korea, April 11 (Yonhap) -- BMW AG hopes that its all-new 3 Series helps the carmaker regain its top status in South Korea this year, company sources said Thursday, following the drop in sales caused by some cars catching fire.
BMW's 3 Series, one of the world's benchmarks for compact luxury sports sedans, has been the German carmaker's best-selling models in the country, along with the midsize 5 series vehicles.
"The seventh-generation 320d and 330i models, the first fully refreshed models in seven years, are expected to help improve sales in Korea this year," a BMW official said during a media test-drive event held in Yangpyeong, just east of Seoul.
BMW Group Korea sold a combined 59,715 BMW and Mini vehicles in 2018, down 14 percent from 69,186 units a year earlier, as customers were turned off by a string of engine fires last year brought on by faulty exhaust gas recirculation (EGR) coolers and pipes, mainly in the 520d model.
So far this year, the slump in its sales has not shown signs of letting up.
In the January-March quarter this year, sales of the two brand models plunged 51 percent to 10,136 from 20,677 a year ago, according to data from the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association (KAIDA).
In its extended efforts to boost sales here, BMW said it will also introduce the M340i model, the first M performance model among the 3 series, in the Korean market later this year.
The six-cylinder gasoline model comes with a unique laser light technology that can light up 500 meters ahead and the reversing assistant function that allows for semi-autonomous reversing at low speeds through narrow corners, BMW said.
The new BMW 3 Series has an entirely new body with a stronger athletic look, borrowing the same expressive face first pioneered in the 5 and 7 Series.
It enhances its iconic design language through its clear and precise lines, beautifully contoured surfaces, and a larger and wider kidney grille to deliver a bold and simple impression.
The interior has undergone a lot of rework even if the overall presentation remains familiar.
"As we sought simplicity among others, we placed all workable functions, such as music selection, temperature, air intake and vents, and navigation control in a 'functional island' in the cabin, BMW's interior designer Nury Kim told reporters.
The head-up display, a digital map in the instrument panel and a navigation system, all installed in the new 3 Series, are aimed at helping drivers find their way easily, the Korean native said.
The new 320d and 330i models are available at prices between 53 million won (US$47,000) and 65 million won. The M340i model will be priced at 76 million won, the company said.
The first-generation 3 series was launched in 1975 in global markets. But the first-generation 3 Series model was not imported into Korea. BMW brought the second-generation 3 Series model in 1988.
The carmaker sold a total of 86,000 3 Series models in Korea for the 30 years through 2018. Globally, 15.5 million 3 Series models have been sold in the past 45 years.
Meanwhile, BMW is in the final stage of the recall of 171,000 BMW and Mini models to fix the faulty EGR parts. Earlier, the carmaker said it had recalled 94 percent of the affected vehicles.
BMW Group sells BMW, Mini and Rolls-Royce models in Korea, Asia's fourth-biggest economy.
Unlike BMW and Mini models, luxury Rolls-Royce models' sales jumped 43 percent to 123 last year from 86 a year earlier, KAIDA said.
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