Hyundai showroom

One of the French government's listed initiatives for aiding its ailing automotive sector, especially Peugeot, was asking the European Commission to keep an eye on imports from South Korea. The EU signed a free-trade agreement with South Korea last year, and France is concerned that might be exaggerating the loss of market share being suffered by its domestic makers – Europe-wide sales of South Korean cars rose by more than 20 percent last year in a market that is enduring painful contraction.

The EU says it has received an official request to monitor South Korean imports, according to a report in Reuters. Should the EU agree to the France's demand, it could mean instating "prior surveillance measures" that would compel the South Koreans to notify the EU of the number and type of products it planned to ship in advance.

No one is mentioning the reintroduction of tarrifs on South Korean automobiles, since even the EU Trade Commissioner is talking up the overall benefits of the free-trade agreement, but it is an option. The effect such a move would have on the French domestics' s situation is questionable, though; Hyundai's EU plants, such as those in the Czech Republic and Turkey, have produced 70 percent of its products registered in the EU, and Kia Motors Slovakia plant produces the duty-free and very popular Cee'd on top of the Sportage and Hyundai ix35. A Hyundai spokesman said just 12 percent of its EU product came from its home country.