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China topples Korea in 2023 Australian market production race: Hyundai and Kia overwhelmed by MG and GWM plus a little help from the Tesla Model 3

The rise of Chinese-made cars in the Australian new-car market has relegated South Korea to fourth position.

In a sign of the automotive times, the number of new vehicles produced in China and sold in Australia in 2023 exceeded the number of cars coming from South Korea, now placing the manufacturing powerhouse in third position behind Japan and Thailand.

For the full-year 2023, vehicles produced in China and sold here numbered 193,433, up 57.5 per cent on the 122,845 units registered in 2022. By contrast Korea accounted for 161,614 new-car sales, up a modest 1.5 percent on the previous year.

To put those numbers in context, 345,071 vehicles purchased in Australia in 2023 (28 per cent of the market) came from Japan, with Thailand (the ute capital of the world?) contributing 264,253 units (22 per cent of total vehicle sales).

Across the emerging Chinese brands, finding increasing favour with Australian buyers, MG stood out with 58,346 sales, up a healthy 17.7 per cent year-on-year, thanks in no small part to incremental growth delivered by the arrival of the MG4 (3134) and MG5 mid-size sedan (2398).

Next up, GWM grew by no less than 45.3 per cent, selling 36,397 cars, the hero being the Haval Jolion with the recently arrived GWM Ora and Tank 300 in support.

LDV also had a strong year, up 30 per cent to 21,298 units, largely on the back of continuing success for the Deliver9 van and T60 ute, the latter up more than 50 per cent.

Across the emerging Chinese brands, finding increasing favour with Australian buyers, MG stood out with 58,346 sales.

BYD can claim the strongest growth among the current crop of Chinese brands, the EV specialist expanding sales by no less than 488.6 per cent from a humble 2113 examples of the Atto 3 in 2022, to a total of 12,438 sales last year, helped by the arrival of the Tesla Model 3-bating Seal sedan and compact Dolphin.

And the re-emergence of Chery in 2023 was based on the Omoda 5 SUV and more recently the larger Tiggo 7 Pro. A total of 5370 registrations may not seem like many in this company, but the brand has big plans for the near future.

Then there are the 'stealth' Chinese cars, most notably from Tesla with all Model 3s and Model Ys sold here coming from the company's Shanghai plant, for an annual total of 46,116 sales.

Add all Polestar production, as well as selected BMWs, Volvos and others, and China's increasing influence on the local new-car market is obvious.

The EV6, Carnival and Picanto were big improvers for Kia.

Now relegated to fourth position, Korea is led by Kia, which bested its Hyundai stablemate last year, registering 76,120 sales (up 2.8 per cent) against 75,183 (plus 2.5 per cent).

The EV6, Carnival and Picanto were big improvers for Kia, while the Tucson and i30 continued as the backbone of the Hyundai line-up.

The 'other' Korean brand, SsangYong remains a relatively modest player with 5966 sales for the year, although the Musso ute grew by 78.5 per cent to 3941 sales.

James Cleary
Deputy Editor
As a small boy James often sat on a lounge with three shoes in front of him, a ruler between the cushions, and a circular drinks tray in his hands....
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