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What Kind Of A Car Would Budda Drive? - SUVs Beat Out Compacts, Minicars as Most Popular Korean Passenger Cars

Seoul, Korea October 6, 2003; The Korean Times reporterd that trends are changing rapidly in the automobile market with motorists opting for larger cars and sports utility vehicles rather than minicars and compacts.

The Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association announced yesterday that SUVs have finally displaced semi-luxury sedans as the most popular passenger vehicle.

According to KAMA officials, 31,331 units of minicars with engine displacements of less than 800cc, like Hyundai's Atoz and GM Daewoo's Matiz, were sold through August, for a 4.4 percent of the passenger car market.

The figure is about one-sixth of the 156,521 units sold in 1998 in the aftermath of the Asian financial crisis when the government provided numerous benefits for purchasing minicars to encourage the use of fuel-efficient vehicles.

``Despite the fact that there has been active campaigns to encourage the purchase of smaller cars, consumers are opting for larger and more powerful vehicles,"one KAMA official said.

Another basic change in the automobile market has been its sheer size, with 1.22 million units being sold in the first eight months compared to the 560,000 in the same period of 1998.

``Basically, motorists who would have purchased minicars in previous years are now buying sub-compacts and those purchasing sub-compacts are now able to afford more expensive cars,"the official said.

As a result, nearly 200,000 SUVs like Hyundai's Sante Fe and Kia's Sorento were sold between January and August, taking up a market share of 27.7 percent and surpassing the semi-luxury sector, which includes Hyundai's New EF Sonata, which cornered 21.6 percent of the market.

``The demand for SUVs has been explosive, increasing by 57.8 percent last year over 2001," the official added.

Meanwhile, there has also been a consistent rise in the sales of luxury sedans with engine displacements over 2,000cc, nearing a 10-percent market share, up sharply from the sales of just 22,000 in 1998.