You might not know your Altima was imported from overseas until you use the navigation and realize it’s in Korean.
Washington resident and Foreign Market Car Sightings Facebook group member Steven Boswell noticed something strange driving by GMA of Everett, a used car dealership in Snohomish County, many Nissans and Toyotas on the lot had foreign license plate frames still attached.
After walking up to GMA, snapping photos of various Altimas, Priuses, and Camrys, he shared his findings with Foreign Market Car Sightings and, thanks to other knowledgeable group members, figured out that many cars from GMA of Everett’s inventory are from South Korea.
Here’s a 2018 Toyota Prius for sale with the South Korean License plate holder still visible.
A quick google search confirms this as, according to sites like Import Yeti and Supply Chain Intelligence website Panjiva, it shows GMA of Everett Motors LLC received 100+ shipments, all of them from South Korea.
Import Yeti is more transparent with how many cars GMA’s received from overseas.
A sample bill of lading from GMA is for one 2017 Nissan Altima from Kwangyang, South Korea to the Port of Tacoma, Washington.
If that wasn’t proof enough, scrolling through GMA of Everett’s inventory, especially Nissans and Toyotas with a South Korean License plate holder still visible, there are obvious clues that these cars aren’t sourced from nearby.
This Prius’s multimedia display is also still in Korean.
Here’s what the back-up camera from our aforementioned 2018 Prius still looks like.
Apparently, it’s only a matter of a few button presses to change the language from Korean to English.
So, the big question is how is this both legal and profitable?
Foreign Market Car Sighting’s admin Mike Cui commented his .02, explaining it quite clearly.
“Many Japanese cars sold in South Korea are built to DOT/SAE specs, with some models like the Camry being sourced from the USA rather than Japan or Australia, “Cui comments.”
Left-hand drive USDM cars like the Altima, Prius, and Camry sold in South Korea are imported in from their respective Nissan and Toyota Japanese factories.
“These DOT/SAE spec Korean market cars are typically admissible for import into the USA as long as their manufacturers are able to issue certificates of compliance, telling the government these meet all the same safety and emissions standards as the USDM models.”
“Combine all this with a f***** up car market and used car dealers in the USA have an opportunity to stock up on these imports from Korea, which in turn help fill their lots up with modern inventory they can move, and likely help reduce the high prices of used cars”
To put this theory to the test and gain some understanding of how this is all profitable, I looked up what used Nissan Altimas, eligible for export from S.Korea, are selling for.
According to Auto Wini, used Altimas range between $1,200 and $19,000 with the median price around $9,600.
Shipping cars from South Korea adds another $4,000.
Returning to our 2017 Altima with 46,000 miles, GMA is asking $19,490.
With some simple maths and assuming a used car buyer makes every payment thank to their 0% financing (which, I doubt,) GMA is set to gain around $6,000 in profit.
That’s a not too shabby ROI.
In 2019, importing used cars from South Korea probably was not profitable.
But, today, with demand for used cars at the highest it’s ever been thanks to new car shortages, used car dealerships, like GMA of Everett, are getting creative, sourcing cars legal for American roads wherever they can.
South Korea just happens to have many LHD cars that require little to no modification to make them road legal.