Tide Turning for Korea’s Auto Imports?
Anyone who has spent time in the bustling streets of Seoul is familiar with the scene: commuters crowding into Daewoo buses, while salary men hurry home in their Hyundai sedans and motorcycle couriers navigate around the 386er families in Kia SUV’s. Some signs are beginning to emerge that the landscape is changing, and that foreign-made cars will become an increasingly common sight on Korean highways.
The year 2005 marked the 50th anniversary of Korea’s automobile industry. From its humble beginnings and lowtech assembly process in the 1960s, Korea has gone on to emerge as the world’s fifth-largest automaker, having produced 3.7 million units (six percent of total global output) in 2006. The South Korean automotive industry exports to all key world markets. The Hyundai group (Hyundai and Kia) controlled 29 percent of the Korean market in 2006, with Hyundai exporting 69 percent of the passenger cars it produced in Korea. In terms of domestic consumption, the Korean market ranked 14th in the world by consuming 1.14 million units in 2005.