2013 Seoul Motor Show arrives at fork in road

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2013 Seoul Motor Show arrives at fork in road

The 2013 Seoul Motor Show officially wrapped up its 10-day run on Sunday after drawing 1.05 million car lovers.

The ninth edition of the biennial event featured 384 companies from 14 countries at Kintex in Goyang, Gyeonggi. More than 300 cars were shown by 29 manufacturers in a 102,431-square-meter space, roughly the equivalent of 15 soccer fields.

Although the number of visitors didn’t meet the goal of 1.2 million because of rainy weather over the final weekend, organizers said attendance was still a record.

In addition, organizers said that considering 14,311 foreign buyers from 41 countries visited the event and negotiated $1.43 billion worth of contracts, the economic impact of the motor show reached 1 trillion won.

The Seoul Motor Show is the only local show approved by the International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers (OICA), and organizers hope it will be one of the top shows in the world by 2015, joining the likes of Detroit and Frankfurt.

However, there might a long road ahead before that dream is realized. This year’s show may have been the largest ever, but many critics said the event’s quality didn’t match its size.

Experts pointed out that in order to step up to a world-class level, the event must contain lots of world premieres of cars. For this year, organizers said 45 cars will be introduced to Korea, while nine of them were unveiled for the first time.

But of the nine world-debut models, four were variations in trims and models of Hyundai’s commercial truck Trago Xcient. Most top auto shows don’t include commercial vehicles on their world premiere lists.

In addition, there was no clear “theme” this year. Although it employed a slogan - “With Nature, for the People”- most highlighted models were concept cars with high performance, futuristic designs. There were not enough programs or events to support the motor show’s claim to be environmentally friendly.

Meanwhile, visitors complained it was difficult to plan a schedule. Exhibition halls were divided into two buildings and it took five or ten minutes to walk between them.

In an early phase of the event, organizers didn’t allow people to re-enter the exhibition halls. Organizers later stamped the hands of people wanting to leave and re-enter.

Inside the exhibition halls, visitors with children also might have felt embarrassment in some booths where cars were introduced by scantily clad models. No wonder I have heard that the motor show was about watching models, not the cars.

Some auto lovers expressed disappointment that in some car booths they couldn’t open or enter the car. Manufacturers said it was for safety and product damage reasons, but many said they attended to actually “sense” the vehicle, such as sitting on the seat and touching the steering wheel.

Some people said that if organizers just let people “see” the car, the motor show is no different than seeing photographs on the Internet.

As the world’s fifth largest automobile producer, Korea needs a high quality auto show. It seems the size and the scope of the Seoul Motor Show have grown, but problems remain that need to be fixed if the event is to be world class.

by Joo Kyung-don[kjoo@joongang.co.kr]
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