In a recent Australian car magazine it waxed lyrical about the Korean car industry. They had a Clark Kent style of man ripping his shirt apart to reveal a Korean flag on his chest. Call me cynical but I didn't buy the amazing rise of the industry because I know how much help it got and continues to get. Certainly Korea makes cars in goodly numbers but it is protected domestically by inordinate tariff barriers and has had government subsidies to help it along as well. No wonder it's so successful.
Of course it still has to make cars desirable in those markets that it has to genuinely compete and that has been achieved. The point I make is with the home market safely in its grasp, the profit made from that gives it a strong advantage.
Below in the chart we see Korean domestic sales by group. Hyundai and Hyundai Precision make up the first column. This is the most successful part of the Korean car industry. Through the 1990's it accounted for between 43-50% of local vehicle sales.
Then there is Kia and Asia Motors, the latter purchased by Kia in 1976 and gradually phased out. Kia itself filed for bankruptcy in 1997 and Hyundai moved in to become a shareholder and rescue it. It's share of the market varied form 21% to 35% over this decade.
Daewoo Motors was an ambitious company which along with Daewoo Heavy Industries had a reasonable share of domestic sales. It took over the troubled SsangYong company in 1998 but as that lasted only two years, SsangYong remains part of the 'Others' section. Daewoo/DHI ranged from 15 to 26% of the market.
Other Korean was mainly SsangYong which at best reached 9%. Also Samsung came along in 1998, but by 1999 it was already in trouble due to the Asian financial crisis. Lastly imports had just started and struggled to get 1% of sales due to the duties imposed. Would imports remain a rare treat for a privileged few?
For the other two in the series, please click on the dates: 2000-09, 2010-17.
Picture credit: Ki hoon.