SEUOL (Yonhap/ - Sales of imported vehicles in South Korea continued to rise last year, aided by firm demand for foreign brands and the resumption of sales by Audi Volkswagen, industry data showed Friday. The number of newly registered foreign vehicles reached 260,705 last year, up 11.8 percent from a year earlier, the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA) said in a statement. In December alone, however, the sales of foreign vehicles fell 8.7 percent on-year to 20,450, it said. The market share of foreign cars in the country's passenger car market rose to a record high of 16.7 percent last year, shattering the previous all-time high of 15.5 percent in 2015. Year-on-year, it is up from a share of 15.2 percent, the KAIDA data showed. But, imported carmakers claimed a market share of 14.75 percent in December, down from 15.16 percent a year earlier due to a sharp decline in BMW vehicle sales following recalls of fire-prone engines in its mainstay 520d sedan, a KAIDA spokeswoman said.

The three best-selling models were the Mercedes-Benz E 300 (8,726 units sold) and E 300 4MATIC (9,141 units) and the Lexus ES300h (8,803 units) last month. Six out of 10 imported vehicles sold in Korea last month were from Germany, the statement said.

Audi Volkswagen resumed sales in Korea in late 2017 after suspending normal operations in 2016 following an emissions cheating scandal.

In 2017, imported vehicle sales reached 233,088 units, up from 225,279 a year earlier, the data said.