China overtakes U.S. to be S.Korea's 2nd-largest source of EV imports in 2023

National Business Wire (Jan 17) -- China overtook the U.S. to become South Korea's second-largest source of electric vehicle imports for the first time in 2023 with the help of Chinese-made Tesla cars.

South Korea's imports of electric cars (excluding commercial vehicles) amounted to $2,291.79 billion last year, up 18.1% from a year earlier, according to K-stat, a trade data system of the Korea International Trade Association(KITA), on Wednesday.

In terms of EV imports by country, Germany topped the list with $963.45 million, followed by China ($589.85 million) and the U.S. ($547.08 million).

China overtook the U.S. for the first time to become the 2nd largest source of EV imports into South Korea, with a 255.6% increase in imports from the previous year.

It is worth noting that China ranked No. 5 in 2021 with $28 million in South Korea's EV imports, rising to No. 3 in 2022 with $165.86 million in the imports.

While imports of electric vehicles from China have grown significantly, South Korea recorded a $564.22 million trade deficit with China on electric vehicles in 2023, a figure that is more than three times the trade deficit of $156.49 million in 2022.

The report said the increase was mainly due to the popularity of the Model Y in South Korea, which is made in China by U.S. electric car company Tesla Inc.

Tesla has been selling the Chinese-made Model Y rear-wheel drive (RWD) car in South Korea since last September, which features lower-cost Chinese-made lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries.

As per Seoul-based data research centre CarIsYou, the Tesla Model Y saw sales of 13,885 units in South Korea last year, making it the top-selling imported model after the Mercedes-Benz E-Class (23,640 units) and the BMW 5 Series (20,492 units).

The success of the Chinese-made Model Y, has prompted a surge in South Korea's imports of Chinese EVs, even though Chinese EV makers have yet to enter the country's sedan market.

Industry believed that under this trend, imports of Chinese EVs will further increase after Chinese automakers such as BYD officially enter the Korean market. As a result, some predict that it is only a matter of time before China jumps to become South Korea's largest source of EV imports.

BYD, China's largest new energy vehicle maker, has applied for trademark rights for six models in South Korea in 2022, including the Seal, Dolphin and Atto3, which is on track to land in the Korean passenger car market in the near future.

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