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Korean carmakers eye home advantage

Auto industry officials and journalists browse through the Seoul Motor Show venue at KINTEX in the northwestern outskirts of Seoul during a press day event on Thursday, a day before the 10-day trade exhibition kicks off under the theme “With Nature, for the People.” Some 331 automakers and parts makers, including 103 foreign firms from 13 countries, are participating in the biennial show this year. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
Auto industry officials and journalists browse through the Seoul Motor Show venue at KINTEX in the northwestern outskirts of Seoul during a press day event on Thursday, a day before the 10-day trade exhibition kicks off under the theme “With Nature, for the People.” Some 331 automakers and parts makers, including 103 foreign firms from 13 countries, are participating in the biennial show this year. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
GOYANG, Gyeonggi Province ― More than 300 vehicles, including nine world debuts and 16 new introductions in Asia, will show off their beauties at the Seoul Motor Show which kicked off Thursday starting with a media preview.

Korean carmakers, among other players, have geared up to prevail during the largest automotive event held on their home turf.

Korean auto giant Hyundai Motor dominates the largest exhibition space of 6,800 square meters and shows off 38 vehicles, including the HND-9, a luxury sports coupe with fancy butterfly doors.

The concept car, whose styling could preview the next Hyundai Genesis Coupe, represents an evolution of Hyundai’s fluidic sculpture design philosophy, the carmaker said. It’s the ninth concept designed by Hyundai’s R&D center in Korea.

The rear-drive concept is powered by a 3.3-liter turbocharged, direct-injected V6 engine with an eight-speed automatic transmission. Its output is rated at 370 horsepower.

Hyundai has also recreated the interior of its priciest premium sedan Equus in a collaboration project with France’s luxury fashion house Hermes. Only three vehicles have been remade but not for sale. It is unprecedented the French brand has teamed up with a carmaker to redesign a car. 
Hyundai Motor uncovers its luxury sports coupe concept vehicle HND-9 at the Seoul Motor Show press day Thursday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)
Hyundai Motor uncovers its luxury sports coupe concept vehicle HND-9 at the Seoul Motor Show press day Thursday. (Park Hae-mook/The Korea Herald)

Kia Motor, an affiliate of Hyundai, which showcased 27 vehicles during the event, held a world premiere for its all-new “CUB” concept.

Designed under the leadership of president and chief design officer Peter Schreyer, the CUB is less than 4 meters long, has rearward-opening rear doors and an “access-all-areas” interior concept without traditional B-pillars.

“The new Kia CUB is a compact, four-door coupe created with a clear focus on driving performance and practicality,” said Thomas Oh, senior executive vice president at Kia.

The carmaker also unveiled the seven-seat Carens which was first revealed during the Paris Motor Show last year.

Kia, however, disappointed local car lovers as it decided to unveil three world debuts not during the Seoul event but at the New York International Auto Show on Friday.

Other smaller carmakers ― GM Korea, Renault Samsung Motors and Ssangyong Motor ― seemed to have braced to impress Korean and foreign visitors.

GM Korea has come up with the all-electric Chevrolet Spark, which was developed under the leadership of the Korean branch.

GM expects the Spark EV to set a new benchmark for performance among urban electric vehicles. It is powered by an advanced electric motor and battery system.

The electric car churns out more than 130 horsepower, hustling from 0 to 100 kilometers per hour in less than 8.5 seconds.

“GM Korea recently began production of the Spark EV at our Changwon plant. The vehicle will be first exported to the U.S. and be available in Korea in the second half of this year,” said GM Korea CEO Sergio Rocha.

Renault Samsung made the Asian debut of its new compact utility vehicle QM3 during the show, whose Korean launch is due in the second half of this year.

The carmaker also plans to introduce the all-electric version of its SM3 compact, Z.E., with other redesigned models of its flagship SM7, SM5, SM3 and QM5.

Ssangyong Motor pins high hopes on the Chairman W Summit, an enhanced version of its flagship limousine Chairman W.

The key features of the new luxurious sedan are the upgraded two-man seats in the second row, which aim to provide more comfort and independence. They are also equipped with a motor-operated, extended three-stage leg rest, a footrest, headrest and even pillows.

“By enhancing the level of dignity of the Chairman W, which opened the era of premium luxury sedans, I expect that we can compete shoulder to shoulder with imported car brands,” said Lee Yoo-il, CEO of Ssangyong Motor.

By Lee Ji-yoon (jylee@heraldcorp.com)
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