Creampuffs on display at Seoul motor showFor the latest in automobiles, tune in to the Seoul Motor Show. The biennial event kicked off yesterday at the COEX Center in southern Seoul and will end on Nov. 29.
Car companies from 11 nations have rolled out their latest models, as well as futuristic concept cars, race cars, souped-up cars, cutaway cars (model cars cut in half) and peripherals for cars. There are battery-charged autos, vans with builtin beverage coolers, sedans with e-mail capability, environmentally friendly subcompacts and creampuffs with super-intelligent cruise-control systems.
And if cars aren’t enough, the pop group Fin.K.L. is performing on Sunday, and the saxophonist Danny Chung is playing four times daily during the event.
The motor show also includes an automotive industry symposium, a children’s car painting contest, an automobile design contest, "best car of the show" awards and a lottery for a new car. The Korea Automobile Manufacturers Association is expecting 800,000 people to attend this year’s event.
When the association began planning their first show in the early 1990s, it wanted to showcase local designs in a national show. At that point in time, there were no auto exhibitions in Korea.
But a month before the first Seoul Motor Show in 1995, several foreign auto companies contacted the organizers asking to join, recounts Hong Seong-ryeong, the show’s exhibition manager. The exhibition immediately expanded from a national to an international event.
Every other year, car companies from around the globe descend on the COEX to display their latest models, make deals and test the market.
"We benchmark the best motor shows -- Paris, Detroit, Tokyo and Frankfort," Mr. Hong says. "We’re not quite in the same league as the top four, but we’re right behind and aiming to get there."
The Seoul Motor Show has served as a testing ground for the automobile industry. "Companies show a concept car and if enough customers say, ‘Now this is one cool car. I want to ride in it,’ then with some modifications, the car is brought out," Mr. Hong says.
For example, the Hyundai HCD 1, 2 and 3, were introduced at the 1995 event and eventually became the Tiburon, said a Hyundai spokesman. The HCD 4 was later released as the Sante Fe. About one-third of the cars at the Seoul Motor Show are concept cars.
This time around, Hyundai is showing two concept cars, the HIC and the HCD 7. The HCD7 is based on the Equus.
Renault Samsung is displaying a 2002 Formula 1 race car and the 1898 Voiturette, Renault’s first car. "We want the public to see the past and future of our company," says Hah Tae-eung, a Renault Samsung spokesman. The group is also showing the SM5 and SM3.
GM Daewoo had its inauguration less than a month ago. The first car to be born from the merger is the Lacetti, an intermediate sedan that was unveiled at the show yesterday. The Lacetti, the successor to the Nubira, represents a joint effort between the Italian design company Pininfarina and the design center at the GM Daewoo Technology Laboratory.
Kia is showing 20 vehicles, including the KCV-1, a European-style minivan, an ambulance and a refrigerator car. Ssangyong is showing sports utility vehicles.
Toyota, one of the international participants, is showing a Formula 1 race car and the Estima, a hybrid minivan. The Estima is environmentally friendly, a route that Toyota has been actively pursuing.
Also at the motor show: Vantech-Korea and Envid are introducing camping vehicles, Hansung Econet is showing an electric golf cart and Daeyang Heavy Industry is exhibiting an environmentally friendly dumpster.
KAZ is a cuttingedge six-passenger Japanese electric car with a 600 horsepower engine. It’s a high-performance vehicle with a maximum speed of 311 kilometers an hour. It runs 300 kilometers on a single battery charge.
GM Daewoo Lacetti
The Lacetti has a 1.5-liter DOHC E-TEC II engine that can reach 100 kilometers an hour in less than 13 seconds.
The sedan features a noise-suppression system and a built-in survival zone in case of accidents. Heated front seats make for comfortable winter driving. But the best feature is for summer: The air conditioner cools the glove compartment, which doubles as a refrigerator for drinks.
Toyota Estima Hybrid
The Estima combines a gaspowered engine with an electric motor to create what it calls the world’s first hybrid minivan. Utilizing a continuously variable transmission, the Estima Hybrid can cruise 1,000 kilometers on a single tank of gas.
Carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons and nitrogen oxides emissions are greatly reduced, as much as 75 percent below Japan’s stringent standards adopted in 2000.
Ssangyong Special Car Crossut
The evolution of crossover cars -- such as the combination sedan and SUV, sedan and multipurpose vehicle, and wagon+SUV+MPV -- continues. Now, there’s a Sports Utility Truck or SUT. The truck has a sedan’s frame and feel, but is powered by a high-horsepower engine. Available with a single, extended or double cab, the SUT features separate doors for easy passenger entry and exit.
The Crossut is closer to a sedan because the deck and passenger space aren’t separated. Designed for people who enjoy leisure activities, the Crossut has a roof rack, search light and protective side moldings. Crossut rides on P285/75R16 mud tires and has bucket seats.
Ssangyong’s Special Cars represent the evolution of the existing Korando, Rexton and Musso models.
Introduced at the 2002 Chicago Motor Show last winter, the HCD-7 is a luxury concept car using the frame of an Equus. The HCD-7 is powered by a 270-horsepower, 4.5-liter V8 engine connected to a fivespeed automatic transmission. The aerodynamic body and minimalist interior design were inspired by the styling of executive jetliners. The passenger space uses simple, elegant materials. A 7-inch LCD screen pops out of the dashboard when an ignition “card” is inserted into a slot on the right side of the steering wheel. The car is steered by two paddles attached to the steering wheel. The HCD-7 is still a prototype and won’t be in production soon.
Wheels of fire spin in Korean F3
The International Korea Formula 3 Super Prix hits the peninsula this weekend, just days after the Macau F3 Grand Prix.
Formula 3, in general, is a gateway to the Formula 1 circuit, and Korea’s Super Prix in Changwon, South Gyeongsang province, is no exception. The Formula 1 racers Alex Yoong and Takuma Sato have both competed here.
The fourth Korea Super Prix, which runs today through Sunday, is attracting some of the best Formula 3 drivers in the world. The race is being held at the 3,014-meter street circuit known as "Monkey Spanner." Only 10-16 meters wide, the track is completely surrounded by safety barriers, so the slightest error can lead to danger.
"The racer needs to excel in transmission techniques. The smallest mistake, especially when slowing the speed, will determine the winner," said last year’s champion Jonathan Cochet.
The Formula 3 is one of three major Formula racing series in Asia, along with the Formula 1 and the F2000. F3 winners often go on to compete in the F1 series the following March.
This year the list of Korea Super Prix grand finale drivers includes the world’s top 31 drivers. The top three runner-ups from the Macau F3 -- Tristan Gommendy of France, Paulo Montin of Italy and Kousuke Matsuura of Japan, -- already make the race dangerously fast. The British F3 Champion Robbie Kerr and the new Spanish champion Marcel Costa, as well as Cochet, will test their driving skills. Another driver from the British series, Bruce Jouanny, who finished fifth overall in Korea last year, will be looking to improve his result. Renaud Derlot, who finished second in the French series this year, dominated the Pan-European Cup earlier this year. He is being tipped as a contender for victory in Korea.
The winner of the Korea F3 Super Prix in 2000, the Indian ace, Narain Karthikeyan will return with hopes of repeating his victory.
Flying the flag for Korea will be Cho Kyung-up, who also competed in 1999. He, no doubt, will have plenty of homegrown support.
Tickets to the 4th Korea Super Prix cost between 10,000 and 30,000 won ($8-25). For more information about the 2002 Korea Super Prix, call (02) 424-2951.
To commemoratethe international festival ofspeed, the Korean National Rail-road is offering the Fantasy F3 Sightseeing package. The train leaves at 11:10 p.m. Saturday from Seoul Station and arrives at Sinchangwon Stationat 4:20 a.m. The return ride leaves at 4:55p.m. Sunday from Sinchangwon andarrives in Seoul at 10:10 p.m. The fare is 35,500 won for adults and 22,200 won for children. For reserva-tions, call 1544-7788.
by Joe Yong-hee, Inēs Cho