GM, Hyundai eye S Korean sports car market
BUSAN, SOUTH KOREA
MASS market car brands like Chevrolet of General Motors and Hyundai of Hyundai Motor are paying keen attention to growing demand for performance cars that are designed for speed and have affordable prices in South Korea as part of their new market development efforts.
Luxury foreign brands such as BMW and Mercedes-Benz as well as super car brands including Porsche and Lamborghini have dominated the performance car market for years.
"The performance car market is still relatively small in South Korea, taking around 9 per cent of the total vehicle sales for the first four months of the year, but the company eyes the market for growth witnessing growing demand for motor sports and tuned cars," a GM spokesman said.
Against this backdrop, the Korean unit of GM debuted Chevrolet's muscle car Camaro in South Korea at the 2016 Busan International Motor Show.
The sixth generation of Camaro, which boasts 455hp and torque of 62.9kg/m, has better performance, interior and styling than the previous model, according to the company.
Most of all, the automaker surprised the South Korean auto industry by setting the basic price of the 2016 Camaro with a 6.2-liter V8 engine at 50.98 million won ($59,500), lower than that expected by the market.
The 2016 Camaro will be cheaper than its American rival Mustang of Ford, which was rolled out in Korea last year, and BMW's mid-size performance car M3.
The company targets South Korean consumers who value cars with a sporty look, a fun-to-drive experience and a reasonable price tag.
"Camaro found a sweet spot for growth at the right timing," said Kim Phil Soo, an automotive engineering professor at Daelim University College.
He added that the market for performance cars, manufactured by mass market brands, will make strides next year, with the debut of Hyundai's first performance car under the badge of "N".
During a press briefing at the Busan Motor Show, Albert Biermann, the chief for Hyundai Motor's N performance car division, said that the nation's largest carmaker is on track to launch its first N car next year, based on the i30.
Mr Biermann hinted the i30 N will compete with foreign performance cars in the small car segment, such as Volkswagen's Golf GTI, but the N will be offered at a more affordable price.
At the biennial motor event, the Korean automaker revealed three prototype projects for the N brand, including the N 2025 Vision Gran Turismo concept, racing mid-ship RM16 and i20, the sport-focused version of the small hatchback only sold in overseas markets.
"Despite the emergence of eco-friendly electric cars, performance cars will continue to thrive, backed by a growing number of drivers who seek driving fun," the professor said.
THE KOREA HERALD/ASIA NEWS NETWORK