Sunday, January 08, 2006

What Do Diplomats Drive in Korea..More on the Korean Big Car Market

I'm fascinated with the Korean big car market. One dynamics of this market is the topic of this Korea Times article..

What's driving diplomats in Korea?

Embassy cars with blue license plates, tinted windows and little flags can be seen all over town but to appreciate the parade of high-end expensive automobiles favored by ambassadors, hang around one of the top hotels in Seoul area during a diplomatic reception honoring a country's national day.

Traditionally, ambassadors prefer Mercedes because for most it offers the right balance of design, elegance, performance and a great boost to the ego that can only be matched by driving or being driven in a car worth more than the average annual household income.

As it stands now, Mercedes and Hyundai lead the pack in foreign and domestic cars of choice by diplomats in Seoul.

Trying to make a dent in this heated market is BMW, whose top models are considered by many aficionados as among the most enjoyable and distinctive cars to drive.

At the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and summit in Busan, anyone in the southern port city or watching on television saw regular parades of top-line Hyundai and BMW cars carrying some of the most powerful leaders of the world and their spouses. >>>I was in Korea at this time and it was a big deal...Who was supplying cars to who <<<

Hyundai and BMW were the official APEC cars.

Recent statistics by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade show there are 596 diplomatic cars on the roads in Korea - 283 are domestic and 313 are foreign.

Among the domestics, Hyundai is the clear leader, with a total of 143 cars in diplomatic service. The second most popular domestic cars among diplomats are Kia, with 51, and Daewoo, 50. >>>What's interesting is that someone actually keep count<<<

Among foreign cars, Mercedes leads the way with 83 and Volvo, renowned for its safety and more recently stylish and sporty sedans, lies second with 51. A surprising third is Ford (48), followed by Toyota (33).

BMW, while the number two imported car on the market among Koreans, is only the fifth most popular among diplomats.

BMW's senior sales and marketing director, Dr. Josef Reiter, says BMW is picking up speed as the fastest selling car on the diplomatic circuit but MOFAT doesn't keep track of previous years.

What BMW offers to diplomats is the 7-series, built to be used as a limo but also as a driving machine, more agile than the Mercedes or the Chairman.

On the domestic side, Hyundai is by far the car of choice for missions that operate on tight budgets in which the envoys want practicality and dependability instead of an ego boost.

Hyundai offers everything from vans to limousines and a sporty Tuscan coupe.

During APEC, Hyundai Motor Co. provided several hundred official cars, ranging from its flagship Equus limousines which were used by the heads of states and government to Starex vans and Aerotown buses for officials and journalists

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