By Choi Kyong-ae
SEOUL, Oct. 4 (Yonhap) -- Imported vehicle sales in South Korea rose 17 percent last month helped by an increased supply of new models, but demand for Japanese autos remained weak amid an extended boycott against the neighboring country's export curbs, industry data showed Friday.
The number of newly registered foreign vehicles stood at 20,204 in September, up from 17,222 a year earlier, according to the data from the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA).
German carmakers, such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz, and Volvo Cars, a subsidiary of Chinese automaker Geely, delivered a number of pre-ordered vehicles last month, driving up the overall monthly sales figure, the association said.
The three best-selling models were the Mercedes-Benz E 300 sedan, the Audi Q7 45 TFSI quattro sport utility vehicle and the Mercedes-Benz E 300 4MATIC sedan, KAIDA said.
Six out of 10 imported vehicles sold in Korea last month were from Germany, it said.
But Japanese carmakers like Toyota Motor Corp., Honda Motor Co., Nissan Motor Co. suffered a sharp decline in their sales in Asia's fourth-biggest economy last month amid growing anti-Japan sentiment.
In July, Japan tightened regulations on exports to South Korea of three high-tech materials crucial for the production of semiconductors and displays. In August, Japan officially removed South Korea from its list of countries given preferential treatment in trade procedures.
Japan's move is seen as a retaliatory measure against a Seoul court ruling that ordered Japanese companies to compensate South Korean workers forced into labor during World War II.
Toyota, Honda and Nissan sold a combined 634 units in September, plunging 74 percent from 2,431 a year earlier. Lexus, Toyota's independent luxury brand, was the only Japanese brand that posted a sales gain last month, with its sales rising 50 percent to 469 from 313 during the same period, the statement said.
From January to September, imported car sales fell 15 percent to 167,093 units from 197,055 in the same period last year, it said.
Imported cars accounted for 15.15 percent of the domestic passenger car market in the first nine months, down from 17.24 percent in the same months in 2018, KAIDA spokesperson Park Eun-seok said.
"A combination of lack of supply from German carmakers, lower demand for Japanese vehicles and lack of popularity of U.S. vehicles were the main reasons for their slump for the year," she said.
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