Korean vehicles may only make up a small percentage of overall European car sales, but they are predicted to make a much larger impact in coming years.

New automotive data reveals that efforts made by Korean manufacturers such as Kia and Hyundai to make their cars more appealing outside of their own markets are paying off.

Total Korean car sales in Europe jumped 5.2% this year and are indicative of a general upwards trend since the beginning of the century, according to data specialists EurotaxGlass.

The general shift away from a pure value proposition designed to offset the poor quality of Korean cars, to one offering both value and quality has worked.

“The combination of high specification, improved quality and designs that appeal to European tastes, have made Korean products more attractive”, said Martin Verrelli, spokesman for EurotaxGlass. “The economic advantages associated with Asian manufacturing allow for very competitive pricing, and the established European volume manufacturers are really feeling the pressure.”

Recent models from the big two manufacturers have been extremely well received. Models such as the Kia Sorento and Hyundai Sonata have been able to compete head on with the established European competition in their segments. There has also been an upturn in the used car, market which has a positive effect on residual values of older Korean models.

“If Korea continues to produce desirable vehicles at prices that undermine European brands, we may see the complexion of Europe’s car market volume segment change significantly over the next few years”, added Verrelli.

Overall, Korean cars now account for 3.85% of the European market compared to 2.88% in 2002. It is predicted to top 4% by the end of 2006.