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Korean cars dominate the midsize sedan segment


Two Korean models Kia K3 and Hyundai Elantra will compete with three Japanese models, Mazda3, Toyota Altis and Honda Civic. The market share ratio of 58-42 is not too much of a difference, but considering the average sales of each model, Korean cars are more efficient.

Sales of K3 (former Cerato) after 4 months of 2022 are more than 5,200 vehicles. This model alone accounts for nearly 50% of the segment’s consumption. Elantra’s sales level is much more modest, only 1,218 cars, but still higher than two rivals Toyota Altis (865 cars) and Honda Civic (686 cars).

The model closest in sales to K3 is Mazda3, with more than 3,000 cars after 4 months. Regarding the form of distribution, only Civic and Altis are imported, the rest are assembled domestically.

In the group of C-sized sedans, Korean cars and Japanese cars are clearly differentiated in how they set prices and how to approach customers. Excluding models like the MG5, U5 Plus, which are mainly for selection purposes, low sales, K3 and Elantra have the lowest prices in the segment.

Both are popular brands, but the pricing of the two Korean models sets themselves a position below Japanese cars. The highest versions of K3 and Elantra are more expensive than the lowest versions of Mazda3, Altis, and Civic by VND 50-100 million. No Korean car model costs more than 800 million VND like Japanese competitors.

Kia K3 at a dealer in Ho Chi Minh City. Image: Thanh Nhan

Korean cars in this segment focus on convenience for users. K3 has a smart trunk opening feature, the largest entertainment screen in the segment. To target young, experienced users, the car has seats with cooling and memory function. Elantra has not had an upgrade yet, and before the Altis and Civic come to the new generation, the Korean model has more outstanding amenities.

In recent years, the explosion of small high-rise multi-purpose vehicles has made the traditional segments, especially C and D-size sedans lose their place. No longer being the main sales products, Japanese companies choose a new direction for C-size sedans by focusing on safety technology.

Honda Civic imported from Thailand rolls in Hanoi.  Photo: Luong Dung

Honda Civic RS version imported from Thailand rolls in Hanoi. Image: Luong Dung

Mazda3 has i-Activsense safety technology package, Altis has TSS, Civic has Honda Sensing. Features such as lane departure warning, lane keeping assist, obstacle identification, intelligent brake assist… are not available on Korean rivals.

The trend of design rejuvenation makes Japanese firms no longer conservative. Models like Altis, Civic, Mazda3 become smoother, more attractive in terms of looks. However, the young quality is still in moderation, not flying like Korean cars.

A more accessible price is the basis for K3 or Elantra to hold the majority of the market share in the segment. Japanese cars at a higher price range, aimed at a group of customers who are still interested in traditional sedans, do not want to go to high-rise cars, which have many options in the price range of 700-850 million.

Pham Trung

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