Japan's Toyota sells new models in SKorea

SEOUL: The world's largest carmaker Toyota began selling its best-selling Camry and two other brands Tuesday in South Korea, fuelling competition with fellow Japanese giant Honda.

Toyota launched its Camry mid-size sedan, the Camry hybrid, the RAV4 sports-utility vehicle and its new Prius hybrid after a ceremony in Seoul.

The Japanese company, which up till now has sold only Lexus brand models in South Korea, said it aims to sell a total 1,000 units of its new models every month.

Leading national automaker Hyundai Motor still dominates the Korean market. But overseas brands have become more popular in a country where it was once considered unpatriotic to own a foreign car.

In 2008 foreign car sales led by Honda's Accord hit a record high of 61,648, up 15.5 percent from a year earlier and accounting for about five percent of total sales in Korea.

Honda sold 12,356 cars last year, followed by BMW's 8,396. Toyota's Lexus was fourth with 6,065.

But the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association said foreign car sales would fall this year in the wake of the global downturn. In the first nine months of this year 42,645 foreign cars were sold in South Korea.

The Camry is priced at 34.9 million won (29,898 dollars), Prius at 37.9 million won and the RAV4 at up to 34.9 million won.

The Ministry of Knowledge Economy said Toyota's hybrid models are eligible for tax benefits. South Korea cuts taxes by as much as 3.1 million won for those who purchase eco-friendly vehicles.