Though having rather small geographical territory, South Korea is a big-name country on the international scene. It made progress in various spheres and in automotive industry in particular. The origins of the Korean automotive industry date back to 1955 when a businessman Choi Mu-seong manufactured the first Korean car with a prophetical name Sibal, which stands for ‘the beginning’. Making no delay the Korean government took measures to support and promote the infant industry employing encouraging policy. The 1960-s became the decade when all the major South Korean car brands appeared – Kia Industry, SsangYong Motor, Hyundai and Asia Motors Company. But at that time these companies were only assembling cars from imported parts. The car manufacturers became more unassisted in the mid 1970-s and many Korean own-produced models came out.
In 1979 the Korean automakers faced the difficulties because of energy crisis. To end up the situation the government began to develop export-oriented production. Thus, Hyundai made furor entering the US market in 1986 and selling their cars there in great number already during the first year of business.
Major South Korean Car Manufacturers
In the course of time the South Korean automotive industry has established itself as the 5-th largest in the world by vehicle production (about 4.5 million vehicles as of 2013) and the 5-th in terms of cars exported on the foreign market. Here are the most prominent Korean car brands:
Founded: December 29, 1967
Founder: Chung Ju-yung
Headquarters: Seoul, South Korea
Parent: Hyundai Motor Group
The first rudiments of Hyundai history date back to 1947, but the company got its current name – Hyundai Motor Company – in 1967. It is headquartered in Seoul, South Korea and has the world’s largest automobile manufacturing plant in Ulsan Metropolitan City. Hyundai began operations as an assembly plant working in close cooperation with Ford and Mitsubishi. The company made its name on the international scene with models Pony and Excel, each sparking furor in the Canadian and American market respectively. In 1988 the manufacturer produced their first model – Sonata – with the own technology thus laying foundation of technological independence.
Nowadays, Hyundai is the top South Korean automaker and the 4-th largest car manufacturer in the world. It sells vehicles in 193 countries and has about 75 thousand employees worldwide.
Founded: December 1944
Headquarters: Seoul, South Korea
Parent: Hyundai Motor Company
Kia Motors Corporation proves to be the oldest South Korean car company founded in 1944 as a producer of steel bicycle parts. After producing bicycles, motorcycles and trucks for more than 20 years, they came to production of passenger cars in 1974. In the mid 1980-s Kia began to collaborate with Ford and Mazda producing Kia Pride and Kia Avella models. The company was forced to declare bankruptcy due to Asian financial crisis in 1997.
However, Hyundai Motor Company helped Kia to regain feet acquiring 51% of business. Today, Kia still remains Hyundai’s subsidiary but only with 33.88% assets owned by Hyundai. In fact, Kia Motors is the second largest South Korean automaker after Hyundai and stably produces about 2.7 million vehicles per year. The company has outposts and divisions in Europe, Mexico and the United States. Along with Hyundai, Kia is an official sponsor of the FIFA World Cup.
Headquarters: Bupyeong-gu, Incheon, South Korea
Parent: General Motors
Daewoo Motors was founded in 1982 as automotive division of Daewoo Group. This South Korean car manufacturer became popular around the world mostly with models Daewoo Lanos and Daewoo Matiz, with the latter having become the company’s top-seller in the late 1990-s. However, after the Asian financial crisis the whole Daewoo Corporation met the financial straits and had to sell Daewoo Motor’s assets to American General Motors. Since then the company operated as GM Daewoo until it was rebranded GM Korea in 2011. It has five production facilities in South Korea and an assembly plant in Vietnam.
Renault Samsung Motors
Headquarters: Busan, South Korea
Parent: Renault; Samsung
Renault Samsung Motors was created in 1994 as an automotive division of Samsung Corporation and was initially called Samsung Motors. The new-born car manufacturer was to use to advantage Samsung’s materials and technologies from Samsung Electrics and Samsung Electronics. However, after the Asian financial crisis the Group had to sell the major share of Samsung Motors to Renault in 2000. Since that time the Korean automaker is renowned by the name Renault Samsung Motors with 80.1% owned by the French company. Renault Samsung Motors’ production line includes models SM3, SM5, SM7, QM3, and QM5.
Founded: 4 March 1954
Headquarters: Pyeongtaek, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea
Parent: Mahindra & Mahindra Limited
SsangYong is a South Korean car organization established as Hadonghwan Motor Company in 1954. It begun by making Jeeps for the US Army, and then acquired by Ssangyong Business Group in 1988 (year of the Dragon in Chinese’s logbook) and changed its name to SsangYong Motor. Currently, the organization makes vehicles like SUV, RV and 4×4.
This is a pretty popular brand, but a rare person knows what’s behind its emblem. It depicts two dragons intertwining and flying to the sky – powerful and mighty creatures. By the way, the brand name is translated as “two dragons”.
You can also find some other South Korean car manufacturers such as Asia Motors, Proto (Oullim) Motors.
Headquarters: Bupyeong, Incheon, South Korea
Daewoo Alpheon is an affiliate of the GM Korea Company is the largest subsidiary of General Motors. It produces millions of road cars every year and exports them to numerous countries. Daewoo Alpheon stands behind the series of non-expensive sedans with design reminding of American road cars (the automobiles were produced from 2010 to 2015).
Headquarters: Gwangju, South Korea
Parent company: KIA Motors
Asia Motors was a South Korean company that was established to produce military vehicles, but soon diversified into the production of SUVs and other heavy-duty vehicles, as well as mini-buses. After being purchased in 1969 by Dongkuk Steel, it focused on low-cost cars for export. In 1994, the company attempted to enter the Brazilian market, but failed.
Headquarters: South Korea
This is a South Korean sports car producer and coachbuilder. Since 1997, the company established partnerships with Kia Motors, Daewoo, and Hyundai. Spirra series is the flagman product of the company. Today, Proto Motors focuses on redesigning of existing models and development of electric cars.