Seoul (The Korea Herald/ANN) - Fuel efficient vehicles with a diesel engine are projected to account for the majority of the total sales of 25 import brands this year.
Diesel-powered import models are posting 50.8 percent, or about 61,000 units of foreign brands' collective vehicle sales so far this year, while the ratio stood at 35.2 percent in 2011 and 25.4 percent in 2010.
According to the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association, the number of imported diesel car registrations continued to surge-36,931 units in 2011 and 23,006 units in 2010.
In contrast, sales of imported gasoline vehicles in the Korean market contracted from 65,269 units in 2010 to 64,181 units in 2011.
"Drivers' priorities are shifting amid the growing financial burden from high oil prices and lower fuel efficiency of gasoline-powered cars," said a KAIDA executive.
BMW Group took the initiative by launching the diesel line-up of the MINI to the local market early this year. The German automotive group also introduced two diesel models for the new BMW 3 Series.
Volkswagen's Jetta Diesel has been a spacious option for those looking for fuel efficiency.
The Jetta 1.6 TDI BlueMotion, a sedan version of the Golf, its earlier model, is equipped with an engine that automatically shuts down when the car is idle and restarts as soon as the accelerator is pushed.
The five-seater can run at 22.2 kilometers per liter without help from electric motors. Its high efficiency comes solely from Volkswagen's BlueMotion diesel engine.
Chrysler attracted drivers with its diesel-powered Jeep Grand Cherokee Overland and 300 C luxury sedan models.
Nissan introduced its first diesel model, the Infiniti FXd, to Korea for the first time in Asian markets.
Ford Motor Korea released the All-New Ford Focus equipped with diesel engines later.
Further, the world's first diesel-electric hybrid vehicle, developed by Peugeot and currently on sale in Europe, was released in the local market.
Hanbul Motors Corp., the official importer and distributor for France-based PSA Peugeot-Citroen, launched the diesel-electric hybrid version of its 3008 crossover hatchback, the Peugeot 3008 HYbrid4.
A chief executive in the import car industry stressed that eco-friendly technology would soon determine carmakers' fate in the Korean and global markets.
"Starting with France, European countries are levying taxes on automobiles in proportion to carbon dioxide emissions," he said.
"The kind of taxation policy will also be applied to Korea in the near future."
Meanwhile, KAIDA estimates the 25 import brands such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz together will grab 10 percent of the nation's automobile market in 2012 in terms of yearly sales for the first time in history.
On a monthly basis, the import car industry has already attained a milestone 10 percent market share.