Why Doesn’t Kia Sell in Japan?

Last Updated on September 10, 2022 by John K. Clifford

Despite how prosperous Kia is now after rebranding, it still does not sell in Japan. This is because it lacks high recognition in the country. Therefore, it invests in areas where its level of recognition is reasonably high to minimize its chances of getting losses.

The K-car dominates the passenger car segment in Japan with over 40%market share. The rest of the brands have to scramble for 60% of the market share, with Japanese brands such as Toyota and Nissan dominating. Those who want luxury cars choose either BMW or Audi, making Korean brands the least popular in Japan.

Another reason Kia isn’t sold in Japan could be that the Japanese regard Korean brands as inferior because they came later, and Japan played a massive role in setting them up. For this reason, they might feel the brands are still coming up and therefore prefer more established Japanese brands.

This article will take you through the main reasons Kia is not in Japan, what Japanese car buyers look for in a car, an overview of Kia sales in different world markets, what makes the brand unique, and everything you need to know about Kia in Japan. Please keep reading!

Reasons Why Kia Doesn’t Sell in Japan

Reasons why Kia doesn't sell in Japan

Kia is a good brand that offers excellent reliability and exceptional performance at an affordable price. However, the brand has a long way before it gets to the top of the market sales. It had the following issues that deterred it from selling in Japan to date. 

Kia wasn’t a Trustworthy Brand

Previously, Kia faced several car issues and problems with its promoters and brand ambassadors. This contributed to its defamation, making it not sell in Japan. 

Kia Didn’t Get Recognition in Japan

Japan is known for its quality and reliable vehicles, with several automakers coming from the country. They also have the K-car, which is quite popular and reliable. Other brands coming into Japan have to prove that they are better than what the country already offers.

Korean brands, including Kia, have not managed to capture the Japanese market and aren’t well recognized in the country. When a product isn’t recognized enough, it is typical for its sales to dwindle.

Lack of brand recognition in the Japanese market has also affected other automakers such as Ford and Hyundai.

Kia Lacks Good Customer and Company Relations Contacts in Japan

Lack of proper customer care becomes a turn-off as many pending cases remain unsolved. It is challenging for customers to trust the brand in these cases completely.

If any other brand comes and provides what is offered by Kia, the company, customer, or even country; Japan, in this case, would instead choose the other brand over Kia.

Initial Reliability Issues

When Kia first started,  it had lots of issues affecting its reliability. Many instances of engine failure and fires were reported worldwide. These issues impacted the brand’s sales, but the impact was much worse in Japan. The Japanese market would instead buy their cars than get a Korean brand that had been reported to fail severally.

What Do Japanese Car Buyers Look for in a Car?

Japan is known to produce high-quality vehicles focused on safety; their cars are reliable and well-built. Foreign cars looking to venture into Japanese markets need to meet and exceed these standards.

Japanese car buyers are used to quality and reliability, and that’s what they need to find in an imported car before buying it.

Vehicle brands need to meet the following requirements to fit the Japanese market.

Environment-Friendly Cars

With issues such as global warming, having environmentally friendly cars is essential. Japanese prefer fuel-efficient vehicles and those with little or no carbon emissions.

High-Quality Cars Which Are Fairly Priced

Affordability is crucial for any automaker looking to sell in the Japanese market. Japanese car buyers want quality and reliable cars at an affordable price. That’s why Japanese vehicles are the most affordable yet quality vehicles

Top-Notch Performance and Features

Japanese cars are known for their excellent performance and handling. Their engines are built to last for thousands of miles without stalling. They also have top-notch features ranging from safety to infotainment features. With these standards already set, Japanese car buyers cannot expect less.

How Does Kia Perform in Different Markets?

How does Kia perform in different markets

Even though Kia doesn’t sell in Japan, it has tremendous success in other markets, including the US, Europe, and China. Most of the sales are in Korea, which is expected because that’s the brand’s origin.

Below is a breakdown of Kias vehicle sales by region as at 2021

Region Share of KIA vehicle sales
The US21.2%

Frequently Asked Questions 

Are Japanese Cars better than Korean?

Both Korean and Japanese Cars are known to be dependable and high-quality. Which one is better is mostly a matter of personal preference. If you want a vehicle with guaranteed quality, Japanese cars win. On the other hand, Korean brands are best for you if you focus on design and advanced features.

Does Hyundai sell in Japan?

Hyundai sales in Japan are almost similar to Kia’s; the Japanese market has not fully embraced Korean vehicles, mainly because they came after Japanese automakers had perfected the art of car making.

The Final Word

Kia and other Korean car brands are becoming quite popular in the US and worldwide, but that’s not the case in Japan. Japanese have the K-car and other reliable passenger cars from Japanese automakers, so they are not enthusiastic about owning a different car brand.

Kias are decent cars that are durable, quality, and affordable, but despite all the pros, the carmaker hasn’t managed to gain a significant market share in Japan. Competition from Japanese brands such as Toyota and Nissan doesn’t improve the situation.

The brand also doesn’t have sufficient recognition, and its customer relations in Japan are wanting. Maybe in the future, Kia will develop strategies to help the brand penetrate the Japanese market effectively, but we can only hope for now.




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