Bloomberg reports shifting tariff regulations have upended the traditional automotive pecking order in Korea. Thanks to cheaper import taxes, foreign brands have seen market share jump from 28 percent to 41 percent over the last two years. BMW, Mercedes-Benz and Audi have all capitalized on the shift, with domestics like Hyundai and Kia suffering at the hands of their German rivals.
Taxes on European imports have fallen from 8 percent in 2011 to just 3.2 percent today. Over the next few years, tariffs will all but be eliminated for most imports, and taxes on US-made vehicles are expected to fall to just 4 percent in 2014. By 2016, that number will be zero. Needless to say, Hyundai and Kia are concerned about the shift.
Hyundai has seen profit fall by 15 percent last quarter, and the company says it is on pace to see the slowest sales growth since 2007. The company's shares have fallen by 12 percent. In order to stem the losses, Hyundai has discounted its midsize sedans and started working on diesel engine options.