Closed market edition: EU ships more cars to South Korea than what’s going the other way. America mostly AWOL

novexports korea

In 2011, the tightly closed market South Korea opened its doors. A free trade deal eliminated duties on vehicles imported from (and exported to) Europe, never mind that EU automakers painted a depressing picture of Europe being overrun by Hyundais and Kias. Just the opposite happened. Three years later, South Korea is “on track to spend more on vehicle imports from Europe this year than it earns from exports the other way,” as Reuters reports. In a formerly fiercely nationalistic country when it came to cars, imports now hold a record market share of 14 percent. Most of them are from Germany.

We are reading that South Koreans are snapping up luxury marques like BMW and record numbers. Going to the trouble of summing up the statistics provided by South Korea’s importer association KAIDA, the picture changes ever so slightly. Top exporter to South Korea is Germany’s Volkswagen Group, with units spread evenly between its bread and butter Volkswagen brand and its more upscale offerings from Audi, Porsche and Bentley. Sales of #2 BMW are lifted by some 4,700 Minis, Rolls-Royces remain a rounding error with 37 units.

#4 Toyota’s exports to South Korea, where Japanese products supposedly are despised, if conventional wisdom only would be true, also are evenly divided between premium Lexus and more mundane Toyota cars.

Exports by GM, Ford, and FCA to South Korea remain anemic in comparison. Of course, there is no trade pact between South Korea and America. Detroit, trying to protect its obscene light truck profits, is busy derailing any hopes for the Trans Pacific Partnership. However, nothing keeps Detroit from exporting using its production bases in Europe, which would get them the same preferential treatment as enjoyed by the cars made at native automakers. Also, Mexico is seeking a trade agreement with South Korea, which would allow Detroit to export from its bases south of the border.

(Too bad the Daily Kanban doesn’t take comments. Back at TTAC, posts like theses always attracted loads of traffic from successfully trolled sympathizers of closed market America.)