Busan motor show still struggling for recognition

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Busan motor show still struggling for recognition

Next month’s Busan International Motor Show will be “the biggest ever,” according to organizers, as the world recovers from an economic slump that limited participation two years ago.

However, the biennial fair still has far to go before it catches up with leading car show hosts like Germany and China, both magnets for new releases, concept cars and luxury brands from around the world.

In contrast, the Busan car show has taken flak for lacking world premieres and remaining within the confines of a regional rather than global event.

But unlike the previous edition in 2010, which most importers skipped, the May 24 to June 3 event expects to welcome many of them back along with all domestic brands.

Some 96 companies from six countries have registered for the show, now in its sixth incarnation since its launch in 2001, including BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Volkswagen, Audi, Mini, Ford, Cadillac, Maserati, Nissan, Infiniti, Lexus, Toyota and Bentley.

They will be joined by local automakers Hyundai Motor, Kia Motors, GM Korea, Renault Samsung Motors and Ssangyong Motor.

“This will be the biggest show ever,” said Roh Young-guhk, executive vice president for marketing at Bexco, the show’s venue in Busan.

But even though officials at Bexco said several world or Asian premiers are planned, many are just rehashing of old brands with minor facelifts.

There are also problems related to insufficient exhibition space.

Bexco is building a second exhibition hall but it is not yet complete.

Moreover, numerous foreign brands including Honda, Volvo, Subaru, Mitsubishi, Peugeot, Citroen and Chrysler have absented themselves for various reasons.

“The number of imported cars sold last year in Korea passed 100,000 for the first time, but not all brands are enjoying strong sales,” said Yoon Dae-sung, executive director at the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributers Association.

While European cars especially German brands, have been enjoying exceptional growth, Japanese and U.S. vehicles continue to struggle in the local market.

Roh said more time is needed for the car show to fully establish itself.

“Visitor numbers are rising each year,” Roh said. “In 2010, more visitors came from outside the city than from Busan, reflecting its growing appeal.”

By Limb Jae-un [jbiz91@joongang.co.kr]

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