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Automotive industry in South Korea

automotive industry in south korea
The automotive industry in South Korea is the fifth-largest in the world measured by automobile unit production and the fifth-largest by automobile export volume

While its initial operations were merely the assembling of parts imported from foreign companies, South Korea is today among the most advanced automobile-producing countries in the world Annual domestic output first exceeded one million units in 1988 In the 1990s, the industry manufactured numerous in-house models, demonstrating not only its capabilities in terms of design, performance, and technology, but also signalling its coming of age


  • 1 History
    • 11 Origins
    • 12 1970 to 1990
    • 13 1990 to present
    • 14 Timeline
      • 141 1950s
      • 142 1960s
      • 143 1970s
      • 144 1980s
      • 145 1990s
      • 146 2000s
  • 2 Automobile manufacturers and products
    • 21 General Motors Korea formerly Daewoo Motor
    • 22 Hyundai Motor Company
      • 221 Passenger cars
      • 222 SUVs and vans
      • 223 Commercial vehicles
    • 23 Kia Motor Company
      • 231 Passenger cars
      • 232 SUVs and vans
      • 233 Commercial vehicles
    • 24 Renault Samsung Motors
    • 25 SsangYong Motor Company
    • 26 Tata Daewoo
  • 3 References
  • 4 External links



The history of the Korean automotive industry began in August 1955, when Choi Mu-seong, a Korean businessman, and two of his brothers Choi Hae-seong and Choi Soon-seong, mounted a modified and localized jeep engine on a US military jeep-style car body made with the sheet metal from a junk oil drum can and military junk Jeep parts to manufacture its first car, called the Sibal car Sibal translates as new go or new start

In order to develop the automobile industry, the Korean government announced an "Automobile Industry Promotion Policy" in 1962, and The Automobile Industry Protection Act to protect the infant industry Foreign automakers were barred from operating in Korea, except in joint ventures with local business entities The government's efforts led to companies that were established in other businesses entering the industry, and the formation of new startups Three companies were established in 1962: Kyeongseong Precision Industry, which changed its name to "Kia Industry", and started assembling cars in cooperation with Mazda in 1962; Dongbang Automobiles, which was merged with Ha Dong-hwan Workshop and became Ha Dong-hwan Automobile Industry Co the predecessor of SsangYong Motor Company in 1963; and Saenara Automobile, established with the technical cooperation of Nissan Motor Co; it was the first automaker in Korea that was equipped with modern assembly facilities, and acquired by Shinjin Industries in 1965 The Asia Motors Company was established in 1965, and the Hyundai Motor Company in 1968 with the technical cooperation of the Ford Motor Company However, all these companies were then merely automotive assemblers, importing parts from overseas partners

1970 to 1990edit

In 1970, Toyota began to show hesitation in continuing its relationship with Shinjin Automobiles After Toyota's withdrawal in 1972, Shinjin entered into a joint venture with General Motors and formed General Motors Korea, which was renamed Saehan Motors in 1976 Kia opened its Sohari Plant in 1973 in Gwangmyeong, South Korea

The Hyundai Pony, the first Korean-developed automobile, was built in 1975 Hyundai Motors accomplished this by engaging George Turnbull of British Leyland Motor Corporation as vice-president The final result was a collaborative effort, comprising:

  • design from Italdesign;
  • transmission and engine from Mitsubishi;
  • technology transfer bodies from Perkinson;
  • car body molding from Ogihara Mold Company;
  • machine press from France; and
  • Funds from Barclays Bank and France Suez

Hyundai chalked up another first when it exported the Pony to South America, in countries like Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador between 1976 and 1982, making it the first Korean-developed car to be exported In 1977, Motores Tecno in Costa Rica, became the first Hyundai distributor in Central America, where the Hyundai Pony pickup were sold

In 1982, the Daewoo Group gained control of Saehan Motors, and changed its name to Daewoo Motors in 1983 However, the Korean automobile industry suffered greatly from the 1979 energy crisis, and the consequent local recession The government took action to resolve this difficult situation in 1982 by implementing the "Automobile Industry Rationalization Policy", the objective of which was to prevent excessive competition between the four major domestic automakers: Hyundai Motors, Kia Industry, General Motors Korea, and Asia Motors Additionally, the government postponed its import liberalization of automobiles

Shinjin Jeep Motors, which was a subsidiary of Shinjin Motors, changed its name to Geohwa Co in 1981, and was taken over by Dong-A Motor Co formerly Ha Dong-hwan Automobile Industry Co in 1985 In 1986, the company was renamed the SsangYong Motor Company

While localization of auto parts was the major concern during the 1970s, developing mass production system for the export-oriented industry became the issue during the 1980s Hyundai entered the United States market in 1986 with the Excel as the Pony was known there, and set a record for selling the most automobiles in its first year of business in the United States compared with any other car brand — 126,000 vehicles Fortune magazine nominated the Excel for the "Best Product 10" award, largely because of its low price However, the cars were of often low quality and broke down often This led to Hyundai having a poor reputation in the United States With this initial success in the export market, the company began in 1989 to produce models, designed in-house and manufactured with its own technology, starting with the Sonata, a medium-sized sedan The Sonata, nevertheless, still featured many Mitsubishi designs and parts

1990 to presentedit

Hyundai's cumulative exports to the US exceeded one million in 1990 In 1992 its ScoupeTurbo won at the Pikes Peak Hill Climb Rally, and in 1993 its Elantra was selected as the "Best Car of 1993" in Australia Hyundai's Accent earned Canadian Best Buy Award in 1995, and its Avante also won the Asia-Pacific Rally that year Yet, amidst all the successes, trouble was brewing for Hyundai

The Excel, although initially well received, gave Hyundai a bad image, as over time its faults became apparent Also, in efforts to bring the costs down, its quality and reliability suffered As time caught up with the poor reputation of Hyundai in the United States, sales dropped drastically, and car dealerships started abandoning their franchises

Rather than drop out of the world's largest automotive market, Hyundai began investing heavily in the quality, design, manufacturing, and long-term research of its vehicles in 1998, and added a ten-year or 100,000 mile warranty to its vehicles in the United States This effort paid dividends for Hyundai, and in 2004 the company tied with Honda for initial brand quality, second in the industry behind Toyota, in a survey conducted by JD Power and Associates

Towards the end of the 20th century, however, the industry began to face tremendous pressures at home, with the domestic market growing at under five percent, and greater competition, both locally and abroad With energy waste, air pollution, and traffic congestion becoming more chronic, the Korean government has imposed the heaviest vehicle excise duty on automobiles and gasoline among the major automobile-producing countries In 1985, the number of vehicles registered in Korea was one million, but by 1995 the total had increased to eight million In response to these pressures, Korean automakers have become more aggressive in terms of pricing and quality, and begun developing larger cars, and broadening their product ranges to meet diverse customer preferences

Internal pressures at home have also forced Korean automobile manufacturers to venture aggressively into international markets In the early 1990s, Daewoo Motors also began to expand heavily throughout the world Until 1996, its cars were all based on General Motors' models After the Asian financial crisis that started in 1997, it took over the troubled SUV specialist, SsangYong, in 1998, but ran into financial trouble in 1999

Asia Motors was completely merged with Kia Motors Company the new name for Kia Industry, changed in 1990 in 1999 Kia Motors had financial trouble in 1997, and helped push South Korea into the Asian financial crisis Kia was subsequently acquired by Hyundai Motors in 1998

Samsung's entry into the automobile industry was also ill-fated Established in 1994, Samsung Motors, its car manufacture started selling cars in 1998, just when South Korea was hit by the Asian financial crisis Faced with financial difficulties, Samsung sold a seventy percent stake in the company to Renault in September 2000, and it was renamed Renault Samsung Motors Samsung also ventured into the heavy vehicle market, founding Samsung Commercial Vehicles in 1996,1234 although this second company filed for bankruptcy in 2000,4567 ending the liquidation in 20022

The purchase of Daewoo Motors by General Motors Corporation in 2002, and Hyundai's completion of a one billion dollar assembly plant in Alabama in 2005, are two major developments that will further drive the Korean automobile industry to focus on North America, its largest export market The move to the US makes Hyundai the sixth Asian automaker to build a US factory, the third foreign maker to pick Alabama, and the sixth automaker to locate in the Southeastern United States since 1990 Now opening in 2009 is another US factory that will be a twin to the Alabama factory It is located in West Point, Ga and will build KIA cars



  • 1955: Choi Mu-seong, a Korean businessman and two of his brothers mounted an engine on a modified US Army Jeep body and chassis to manufacture the historic model, called "Sibal";
    • Shinjin Industrial founded8 precursor of Daewoo Motor;
    • Hyundai Civil Works Company founded by Chung Ju-yung;
    • Ha Dong-hwan Car Assembly Shop founded


  • 1960: UNKRA funds $200,000 to Shinjin Industrial LTD to build Busan Plant8
  • 1961: Government established "Industrial Standardization Act" and announced "Transportation Business Act and Road Traffic Act"
  • 1962: Government established "5-Year Automobile Industry Plan", and announced the "Automobile Industry Protection Act";
    • Saenara Automobiles founded, in technical cooperation with Nissan Motor Co;
    • Ha Dong-hwan Automobile Industry Co founded;
    • Kyeongseong Precision Industry changed its name to Kia Industry
  • 1963: Shinjin Sinsungho launched8
  • 1964: Government announced the "Automobile Industry Comprehensive Promotion Plan";
    • Kia Industry produced Mazda models under licensing;
    • Kia T-600 Triple Truck launched
  • 1965: Government announced "3-Year Automobile Localization Plan", with a goal to achieve 90% local content by 1967;
    • Asia Motors Co established;
    • Shinjin Automobiles took over Saenara Automobiles and Shinjin Corona launched with 20% local content assmebled8
  • 1967: Shinjin Crown,8 Sinjin Truck, and Sinjin Ace launched
  • 1967: Government announced the "Automobile Plant Permission Standards"
  • 1968: Hyundai Motor Co founded, and established licensing agreement with Ford Motor Company;
    • Hyundai Cortina, Hyundai Ford 20M, Hyundai Ford D-series, and Hyundai Ford DK-Series launched
    • Shinjin Publica first produced8
  • 1969: Government announced "Basic Plan for Automobile Industry Promotion"


  • 1970: Sinjin New Crown, Hyundai 0303 Benz bus, Kia Titan, and Kia Boxer launched;
    • Toyota showed hesitation in continuing with Sinjin Automobiles
  • 1972: Shinjin Automobiles joint-ventured with General Motors to form GM Korea,9 and launched Chevrolet 1700, based on Holden Torana model;
    • Kia Brisa 1974–1982 K303 launched, based on Mazda Familia model;
    • Kia KB truck launched, based on Hino truck model;
    • Sinjin Automobiles launched Jeep under licensing from American Motors;
  • 1973: Kyeongbu Highway opened;
    • Hyundai New Cortina launched
    • Kia opens the Sohari Plant in Gwangmyeong
  • 1974: Government set goal of half a million vehicles to be built annually, with the announcement of the "Automobile Industry Promotion Plan";
    • Sinjin Automobiles joint-ventured with American Motors on 50-50 basis to form Sinjin Jeep Company;
    • GM Korea Rekord, based on Opel Rekord, launched
  • 1975: Government established "Systematization Promotion Act" for medium and small enterprises in automobile industry;
    • Hyundai Motor Co established its own research institute, and produced Hyundai Pony, the first Korean-developed car, designed by ItalDesign and based on Mitsubishi technology The car is imported to Britain, where Korean cars have never been sold before;
    • GM Korea's Camina launched, based on Holden Torana
  • 1976: Hyundai Motor made Korean history by exporting the "Pony" to the Republic of Ecuador;
    • Kia Industry took over Asia Motors Co;
    • GM Korea changed its name to Saehan Automobiles,10 and produced Saehan Gemini based on Opel Kadett and Isuzu Gemini models, and Saehan Elf based on Isuzu Elf;
    • Hyundai truck launched, based on a Mitsubishi Fuso model; Hyundai HD1000, and Hyundai Vison also launched
  • 1977: Ha Dong-hwan Automobiles changed its name to Dong-A-Motors
    • Saehan SMC BF101 bus launched10
  • 1978: Hyundai Ford Cortina Mark IV, Hyundai Ford Cortina Mark V, and Hyundai Ford Granada launched;
    • Saehan Rekord and Saehan Royale Salon, both based on Opel Rekord, also launched
  • 1979: Shinjin Jeep Motor Co changed its name to Shinjin Motor Company as the company became a domestic corporation;
    • Kia Bongo truck launched


  • 1980: Government announced integration of automobile industry
  • 1981: Sinjin Automobiles changed its company name to Geohwa Company
  • 1982: Hyundai Pony II and Hyundai FB buses, Kia Bongo van launched
  • 1983: Saehan Automobiles changed its name to Daewoo Motor, with partner General Motors;11
    • Daewoo BV101 bus launched,11 based on Isuzu truck model
    • Daewoo Royale series launched;
    • Hyundai Stellar launched;
    • Hyundai Motors established Hyundai Auto Canada Inc;
    • Geohwa's Korando launched
  • 1984: Hyundai Pony-Excel, and Hyundai Presto launched;
    • Asia Combi launched
  • 1985: Ministry of Commerce and Industry postponed import liberalization of automobiles;
    • Dong-A Motor Co took over Geohwa Co;
    • Kia Besta launched;
    • Number of vehicles registered in South Korea exceeded one million
  • 1986: Government designated automobile industry for rationalization, based on the "Industry Development Act";
    • Government revised the "Road Transportation & Vehicle Act, and other related regulations;
    • Dong-A Motor Co took over Geohwa Co and renamed it Ssangyong Motor Co;
    • Hyundai Excel, and Hyundai Presto AMX Model, launched and exported to United States;
    • Hyundai Excel nominated by Fortune magazine for the "Best Product 10" award;
    • Daewoo Le Mans, based on Opel Kadett, launched
  • 1987: Government cancelled "Automobile Industry Rationalization Plan";
    • Government introduced import liberalization of commercial vehicles between 1,000 and 2,000 cc;
    • Transportation Ministry revised "Enforcement Decree of the Automobile Management Act";
    • Kia Pride, Kia Concord, Asia Topic, and Kia Jumbo Titan launched;
    • Hyundai Truck new model, Hyundai Grace, Hyundai Porter, and Hyundai Mighty launched, based on Mitsubishi Delica, Mitsubishi Canter, and Fuso model
  • 1988: Annual domestic automobile production volume exceeded one million units;
    • Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association KAMA established;
    • Hyundai named "Official Car" in Seoul Olympic;
    • Hyundai Chorus and Hyundai Sonata new model launched;
    • SsangYong Korando family launched
  • 1989: Hyundai Motor completed construction of its plant in Bromont, Canada;
    • Hyundai Sonata launched, using in-house design, but still featuring Mitsubishi technology;
    • 3Gen from Hyundai Excel, Hyundai Porter 125 ton launced;
    • Kia Capital and Kia Wide-Bongo launched, along with Kia Motors's import model, Mercury Sable


  • 1990: Hyundai's cumulative exports to the US surpassed 1 million in 1990;
    • Kia Industry changed its name to Kia Motors Co;
    • Hyundai Scoupe, and Hyundai Elantra launched
  • 1991: Hyundai Sonata new model launched;
    • Kia New Besta and Kia Towner launched;
    • Daewoo Prince, Daewoo Brougham, Daewoo Tico, Daewoo Damas, and Daewoo LeMans new model launched
    • Kia enters the European market with exports of its Pride hatchback, derived from the Mazda 121 of 1987
  • 1992: Hyundai Scoupe new model launched; ScoupeTurbo won at the "Pikes Peak Hill Climb Rally";
    • Kia Sephia, and Kia Potentia launched
  • 1993: Hyundai Elantra new model launched, and was selected "Best Car of 1993" in Australia;
    • Kia named "Official Car" for Daejeon Expo
  • 1994: Samsung Motors founded
    • The Kia brand launched in the United States
  • 1995: Number of vehicles registered in South Korea exceeded eight million;
    • Hyundai's Accent earned "Canadian Best Buy Award", and also won the "Asia-Pacific" Rally;
    • First Seoul International Motor Show
    • Daewoo begins importing cars to Britain, aided by a revolutionary sales package where cars are sold directly to customers from the manufacturer rather than through a traditional dealer network
  • 1997: Kia Motors went into financial trouble, and helped push South Korea into the Asian financial crisis
  • 1998: Hyundai began investing heavily in quality, design, manufacturing, and long-term research, and added a 10-year or 100,000 mile warranty to its vehicles in the United States;
    • Samsung Motors started selling cars;
    • 51% of Kia Motors acquired by Hyundai Motor;
    • Daewoo Motors took over the troubled SUV specialist, SsangYong
  • 1999: Asia Motors completely merged with Kia Motors Company


  • 2000: Samsung sold a 70% stake in Samsung Motors to Renault, and the company was renamed Renault Samsung Motors
    • Daewoo Motors divests of SsangYong Motor Company
  • 2002: Major assets of Daewoo Motors acquired by General Motors The new company was named GM Daewoo
  • 2004: Hyundai tied with Honda for initial brand quality, second in the industry behind Toyota, in a survey conducted by JD Power and Associates
    • Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation SAIC acquires 49% of SsangYong Motor Company
  • 2005: Hyundai completed construction of its $1 billion assembly plant in Montgomery, Alabama;
    • GM Daewoo vehicles were exported under various GM brands and Suzuki, but mostly as Chevrolets
  • 2011: GM Daewoo renamed itself to GM Korea, and in March, all GM Daewoo products are sold in South Korea as Chevrolets
  • 2011: After the renaming of GM Korea, the Daewoo Damas and Daewoo Lobo had become a new commercial brand
  • 2011: GM Korea developed a new Luxury brand called GM Alpheon

Automobile manufacturers and productsedit

General Motors Korea formerly Daewoo Motoredit

  • Chevrolet Aveo/Sonic supermini; 5-door hatchback, 4-door sedan
  • Chevrolet Captiva mid-size SUV; 5-door wagon
  • Chevrolet Cruze compact car; 4-door sedan, 5-door hatchback and station wagon
  • Chevrolet Malibu mid-size car; 4-door sedan
  • Chevrolet Orlando compact MPV; 5-door wagon
  • Chevrolet Spark city car; 5-door hatchback
  • Chevrolet Trax subcompact SUV; 5-door wagon
  • Damas/Labo microvan, pickup; currently does not wear any marque
  • Buick Encore/Opel Mokka subcompact SUV; 5-door wagon; export-only

Hyundai Motor Companyedit

Passenger carsedit

  • Genesis G80
  • Genesis G90
  • Accent/Verna
  • Elantra/Avante
  • Grandeur/Azera
  • i10
  • i20
  • i30/Elantra Touring
  • Hyundai i40
  • Sonata
  • Hyundai Veloster

SUVs and vansedit

  • Entourage
  • HD1000 Minibus/Porter
  • ix20
  • Libero
  • Porter
  • Santa Fe
  • Starex/Grand Starex
  • Tucson/ix35

Commercial vehiclesedit

  • Hyundai Mighty II
  • Hyundai e-Mighty
  • Hyundai County
  • Hyundai Truck 8/25-ton truck
  • Hyundai Super Truck 5ton/45ton HD Series
  • Hyundai Super Truck HD Series
  • Hyundai Aero Town
  • Hyundai Super Aero City
  • Hyundai HD120
  • Hyundai HD160
  • Hyundai HD170
  • Hyundai HD260

Kia Motor Companyedit

Passenger carsedit

Kia Motors Group:

  • Amanti/Opirus
  • Cadenza/K7
  • cee'd
  • Forte/Cerato
  • Morning/Picanto
  • Opirus/Amanti
  • Rio
  • Spectra/Cerato
  • Visto

SUVs and vansedit

Kia Motors Group:

  • Ceres
  • Topic
  • Towner
  • Bongo/K-Series
  • Carens/Rondo
  • Carnival/Sedona
  • Mohave/Borrego
  • Niro
  • Sorento
  • Soul
  • Sportage

Commercial vehiclesedit

Kia Motors Group:

  • KB
  • Rhino/Wide Boxer
  • Trade
  • Boxer
  • AM Truck
  • AM Bus
  • Granbird     
  • Titan
  • Super-Titan
  • Jumbo-Titan
  • Granto
  • Combi
  • Cosmos

Hyundai Motor Group:

  • Pamax
  • Rhino
  • Granbird
  • Power Combi
  • New Cosmos
  • Frontier14ton/25ton

Renault Samsung Motorsedit

Main article: Renault Samsung Motors
  • Nissan Rogue
  • Renault Samsung SM3
  • Renault Samsung SM3 ZE
  • Renault Samsung SM5
  • Renault Samsung SM6
  • Renault Samsung SM7
  • Renault Samsung QM3 imported
  • Renault Samsung QM6

SsangYong Motor Companyedit

Main article: SsangYong Motor Company
  • Chairman W
  • Rexton
  • Korando
  • Rodius
  • Actyon Sports
  • Tivoli
  • XLV

Tata Daewooedit

Main article: Tata Daewoo
  • Tata Daewoo Novus Series
  • Tata Daewoo Prima Series


  1. ^ "History" Samsung Archived from the original on 2 July 2012 Retrieved 19 March 2013 
  2. ^ a b 삼성상용차 24일 파산 신청 Samsung Commercial Vehicles for bankruptcy in 24 days articlejoinscom in Korean JoongAng Ilbo 23 February 2002 Retrieved 24 August 2013 
  3. ^ Lee, Kong-Rae 2013 "Technological Catching-Up through Overseas Direct investment: Samsung's Camera Business" In Sachwald, Frédérique Going Multinational: The Korean Experience of Direct Investment Studies in global competition Routledge ISBN 0-415-27051-0 
  4. ^ a b <기업구조조정> 삼성상용차, 자산은 매각·인력은 계열사 수용 "Corporate restructuring:" Samsung commercial vehicles, sale of assets and personnel transfer to subsidiaries in Korean Labortodaycom 3 November 2000 Retrieved 20 March 2013 
  5. ^ 대구 옛 삼성상용차터에 간판 기업들 잇단 입주 Samsung agrees to move companies on the old Busan's Samsung Commercial Vehicles' lot hankookicom in Korean Hankook Ilbo 15 November 2009 Archived from the original on 1 November 2013 Retrieved 24 August 2013 
  6. ^ "Samsung Commercial Vehicle Applies for Bankruptcy" englishchosuncom The Chosun Ilbo 24 November 2000 Retrieved 19 March 2013 
  7. ^ Michell, Anthony 2010 "Samsung Electronics and the Samsung Group" Samsung Electronics and the Struggle For Leadership of the Electronics Industry John Wiley & Sons pp 57–58 ISBN 978-0-470-82266-1 
  8. ^ a b c d e f 회사소개 > 기업연혁 > 신진자동차 Company > History > Shinjin Motors
  9. ^ 회사소개 > 기업연혁 > GM코리아 Company > History > GM Korea
  10. ^ a b 회사소개 > 기업연혁 > 새한자동차 Company > History > Saehan Motors
  11. ^ a b 회사소개 > 기업연혁 > 대우자동차 Company > History > Daewoo

External linksedit

  • "Made in Korea", Brief History of Korean Automobiles
  • Korean Automotive Industry in Transition, from DSpace at MIT
  • ASIATalk Articles, in

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