Korea has crept into the gap in the Emirates' car market left by a sharp fall in supply of Japanese brands following the devastating earthquake and tsunami.
Sales across the UAE of Kia cars for the first seven months of the year have increased 20 per cent in the UAE, compared with the same period last year, and the brand says it is taking market share from industry heavyweights Toyota and Nissan.
"There's no way we can compete with them in terms of volumes yet, but we can take a slice of the market," said Ramesh Amei, the product manager at Al Majid Motors, the exclusive distributor of Kia across the Emirates.Sales of Sportage cars grew 26 per cent in the Emirates in the first six months compared with the same period last year, and the model now makes up more than half of Kia's sales in the UAE.Mr Amei believes the Sportage is the leader with 40 per cent of the market in its segment, which includes the Hyundai Tuscon, the Toyota Rav4, the Ford Escape and the Nissan Qashqai. Sales of the Kia Optima have increased 350 per cent so far this year compared with the same period last year, and competes with bellwethers in the UAE industry such as the Toyota Camry and Nissan Altima.
The Korean car maker aims to sell 10,000 units this year across the Emirates, which compares with just under 100,000 that Toyota, the market leader, is predicting it might sell.
All the Japanese manufacturers suffered sharp declines in supply to the Emirates following the Japanese disaster in March.Al-Futtaim Toyota, the exclusive distributor, says its UAE market share has fallen below 40 per cent in the second quarter of the year.
Both Toyota and Honda suffered falls in supply to the UAE of about 50 per cent following the earthquake, but Al-Futtaim Toyota now says production is back to full levels for Ramadan.
Industry analysts say Korean manufacturers such as Hyundai and Kia have been making small steps in the past few years and selling more cars."My idea is that the Koreans are improving given the supply situation," said Pierluigi Bellini, the associate director at IHS Automotive, a consultancy. "But I'm not sure how much because normally the Japanese business is quite loyal."