New styles, brands flood the 2012 market
What is most thrilling about this year is that Fiat of Italy and Citroen of France will be introduced to the country. Fiat, the leading automaker in the southern European country, will present the Fiat 500, a small hatchback characterized by its charming retro style. Since it was launched in Italy in 2007, it became an icon among many mini cars as it sold more than 500,000 units in over 80 countries. The four-seat hatchback earned more than 60 awards, including the industry title Car of the Year in 2008. The 2012 Fiat 500 is equipped with a 1.4-liter engine that can generate 101 horsepower.
It isn’t the first time Fiat has entered the Korean market, although it did not directly distribute its vehicles. In the late 1970s, Kia Motors used Fiat’s components and assembled the Fiat 124 and Fiat 132 vehicles. It was a time when not many people owned cars and only a small number of wealthy people could own these vehicles. The Fiat 124 sold for 400,000 won ($345). In 1990, Hanbo Group imported the Fiat Croma.
Although Chrysler, an affiliate of Fiat, did not discuss other models it may distribute, Fiat has many attractive small cars, such as the Punto hatchback and Panda SUV. Fiat also has many well-known brands, such as the ultraluxury Maserati, the ultimate sports car Ferrari, another sports brand Alfa Romeo and mass-production brand Lancia.
Citroen, a sister brand of Peugeot, is another new contender. Citroen, which is renowned for its practical designs, entered Korea in 2002 through a company called Samwhan Camus, but it withdrew from the local market shortly after. Hanbul Motors, which distributes Peugeot and plans to launch Citroen, said it will introduce the DS3, a compact premium hatchback characterized by a voluminous body and attention to detail in its design. Buyers have various options to choose for the roof, body, rearview mirror and steering wheel. Hanbul, however, said it hasn’t yet decided how many and which models it is going to introduce this year besides the DS3.
Peugeot plans to add the 5008 e-HDi, a crossover vehicle, to its lineup.
Toyota Motors will kick off the season with its new midsize sedan Camry on Jan. 18, a long-time bestseller in the United States. Since its first launch in 1983, it has sold more than 15 million units in over 100 countries.
In February, BMW, which commands over 18 percent of the local import car market, will bring in the sixth-generation 3 Series sedan. The popular model accounts for 40 percent of its sales worldwide. It is equipped with a full-color heads-up display that used to be only available in more expensive models.
Although the time line is not set, Volkswagen plans to introduce the new Passat midsize sedan. The new Passat is longer than the current model, 486.8 centimeters (16 feet), which gives it more room in the backseat.
It will also launch the Scirocco R sports coupe. It is equipped with 19-inch alloy wheels and sports seats. The German brand will also unveil the convertible Golf Cabriolet in the first half of this year. Its soft top opens in only nine seconds.
Audi will introduce its new compact sport utility vehicle Q3 for the first time in Korea, a smaller sibling of the Q5 and Q7. In addition, it will launch high performance versions of its existing lines: S5, S6, S7, S8, RS5 and R8 GT Spyder. Only 333 units of the R8 GT Spyder are produced a year.
Japanese brand Subaru plans to launch the WRX STI in the late half of this year. It is a high-performance version of Impreza. It won the World Rally Championship 47 times between 1995 and 2005.
Infiniti will unveil the seven-seat crossover vehicle JX, while Jaguar plans to introduce high-performance convertible XKR-S.
Yoon Dae-sung, executive director of the Korea Automobile Importers & Distributors Association, said this year’s import car market would grow 15 percent from last year, to 119,000 units in annual sales. Last year, import car sales in the country surpassed 100,000 units for the first time.
“The local import car market was largely dominated by German brands last year, but with the Korea-U.S. FTA, sales of American cars are expected to increase,” Yoon said. “In addition, sales of compact cars and diesel powered vehicles will rise.”
On the local side, Kia Motors will launch a new luxury sedan that will succeed the Opirus, and it is also expected to be named K9 along the line of its smaller models K5 and K7. Kia will also start selling the electric version of its mini car Ray.
Ssangyong Motor will introduce the Korando Sport, next week. It looks like an SUV-truck crossover with a truck bed. It was first shown in the Geneva Motor Show in March 2011. The company said it is designed to satisfy those who enjoy leisure, outdoors, and sports.
In the first half, Hyundai Motor will present the new Santa Fe midsize sport utility vehicle, the third generation since the second generation was introduced in 2005. Hyundai will also unveil a two-door coupe version of the popular Avante compact sedan. A sedan version of the European style i40 will also be introduced.
There will be also upgraded models, including the Accent compact car, Veracruz SUV and Starex minivan. Renault Samsung Motors will launch an electric version of the SM3, named SM3 ZE. The vehicle can travel 160 kilometers (99 miles) after a charge at a maximum speed of 160 kilometers per hour. Renault Samsung will also introduce SM3 and SM5 face-lifts.
By Limb Jae-un [email@example.com]
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