Vietnam by far the biggest market for South Korean cars in Southeast Asia

By Thanh Nhan   November 5, 2023 | 07:19 pm PT
Vietnam by far the biggest market for South Korean cars in Southeast Asia
A Sportage car at the Kia car assembly plant in the central Quang Nam Province. Photo courtesy of Thaco
Of the 198,000 vehicles Kia and Hyundai sold in the six largest Southeast Asian markets last year, Vietnam alone accounted for 142,000, a 72% share.

Indonesia, Thailand, Philippines, Malaysia, and Singapore together accounted for only 56,000 vehicles.
In Vietnam Hyundai sold 81,582 cars, behind only Toyota, while Kia was third with 60,729 units.

The two South Korean companies had a 28% share of the market.

In Southeast Asia, only in Vietnam were either in the top three in terms of sales, and in fact had less than a 1% market share in every other country.

The two also have the most models in Vietnam: 10 each.

Countries like Vietnam and Indonesia have demographics with a high proportion of young people, many of whom admire K-Pop and South Korean culture in general, an advantage for automakers trying to sell vehicles, a South Korean auto industry official told The Korea Economic Daily.

South Korean cars entered Vietnam decades ago, starting with Daewoo in 1993, followed by Ssangyong, Kia and Hyundai.

Hyundai vehicles are distributed by Thanh Cong, which assembles them at a plant in the northern Ninh Binh Province, and Kia cars are distributed by Truong Hai, which has a factory in the central Quang Nam Province.

By assembling in Vietnam, Kia and Hyundai find it easier to release more versions of each car than their competitors and offer wider price ranges, thus reaching all kinds of customers.

"South Korean cars are increasingly popular among Vietnamese, especially the younger generation, since distributors understand the habits of local people and add options to attract them quickly, and their prices in most segments are lower than those of Japanese cars," To Yo Ta, a second-hand car dealer in HCMC, said.

Quoc Hieu, 35, a media worker in HCMC who has been driving a Kia Cerato since 2021, said his decision to buy a South Korean car was simply because of its low price.

He bought the AT version of the Cerato (currently named K3) for VND584 million (US$24,300), thousands of dollars cheaper than Japanese cars such as Honda Civic and Toyota Corolla. "I don’t care too much about car brands. I need a car that works at a reasonable price."

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