Hyundai Motor Co has pulled out of the Japanese passenger car market due to struggling sales.

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A statement from South Korea’s largest automotive manufacturer confirmed that it would turn its attention to bus sales and after-sales service in the short term.

“Hyundai Motor has decided to suspend passenger vehicle sales in Japan and will instead allocate its resources to focus on commercial vehicle sales in the country.”

Hyundai began exporting to Japan in 2001 but since then has sold just 15,000 passenger vehicles.

Only 764 new cars have found homes in the first 10 month of this year and Hyundai blames low brand recognition as one of the key factors.

It has not ruled out a return to the market if conditions improve.

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The poor results are against the global trend however, with Hyundai-Kia now the fifth-largest automotive group with a market share of 5.5 per cent in the third quarter of 2009.

Sales boomed 41 per cent to 824,181 quarter-on-quarter, and Australia’s figures have closely followed suit, with year-to-date sales up 42 per cent to 6,281 units.

Meanwhile, Toyota is continuing its push into the South Korean market and has sales targets of more than 8000 vehicles in 2010.

Next year will mark the brand’s 10th year in South Korea, and through five dealerships its sales currently account for around 10 per cent of the local industry’s total imports.

by Tim Beissmann