YEONGJONGDO, Incheon ― BMW Group on Monday unveiled its first driving center in Asia here, which the German luxury carmaker said shows its latest commitment to Korea, the ninth-largest market globally.
The new facility, located in Yeongjongdo, Incheon, some 40 kilometers west of Seoul, is the third driving center after those in Germany and the United States ― the two countries where BMW produces vehicles.
According to BMW Korea, the carmaker plans to invest a combined 77 billion won ($75 million), including construction costs, into the Korean center by 2020. The official opening to the public is scheduled for August, the Korean unit said.
|The 2.6-kilometer race track at the new BMW Driving Center in Yeongjongdo, Incheon. (BMW Korea)|
“It was a strategic decision for us to see further growth in Korea,” Ian Roberson, BMW Group’s sales and marketing chief, said of the reason the carmaker chose Korea to locate its new driving center over other key Asian markets such as China and Japan.
Korea is the fourth-largest market for the 7 Series limousine and the fifth for the 5 Series midsize sedan. Largely driven by the high-end models, BMW’s Korean sales have posted double-digit growth over the past seven years, the executive said.
This year, the best-selling foreign-brand in Korea aims to sell some 40,000 vehicles, another record figure, he added.
The new Korean center will offer existing and potential customers an opportunity to test-drive the carmaker’s 56 BMW, Mini and Motorrad models on a 2.6-kilometer race track.
A brand museum, consisting of brand galleries and other refreshment facilities, will also mimick the famous BMW Welt, a giant delivery center and a public gallery at the Munich headquarters that attracts more than 30 million visitors every year.
BMW’s new regional research and development center ― the fifth globally outside Germany ― is also expected to be located within the site this month, the Korean unit said.
On Monday, BMW and Samsung SDI, the sole battery supplier to the carmaker’s i Series electric cars, the i3 and i8, signed a memorandum of understanding to expand their supply deals and partnership in the automotive battery field.
“We are very happy with the relationship with Samsung and the relationship is still developing,” he said, hinting that a new announcement, including details of the enhanced partnership with Samsung, would be made public during his stay this week.
By Lee Ji-yoon (firstname.lastname@example.org)