Seoul Motor Show has an identity crisis

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Seoul Motor Show has an identity crisis

The Seoul Motor Show that began Thursday with a press event is one of the biggest car exhibitions in the country and is the only international motor show recognized by the Paris-based International Organization of Motor Vehicle Manufacturers.

But there have been questions raised in the past few years whether the biennial event is necessary or is held at the right time since it is sandwiched between bigger auto shows including the Shanghai Motor Show which begin later in the month.

Traditionally, an auto show is an event at which global automakers share their visions of car developments for the future and the technologies being used in the industry. They also introduce the cars that they are currently selling and the cars that they will soon start selling. A successful auto show is made when all of these elements come together.

But it looks like the Seoul Motor Show being held in Kintex in Ilsan, northern Gyeonggi is more like a big dealer showroom rather than an event that points to the future of the world’s car industry.

The most important issue in the industry highlighted in other recent motor shows, including the North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January, was the convergence of IT and car technologies, particularly in driverless driving systems. That’s what got those shows publicity on television news programs around the world.

But it was hard to find anything related to that topic in Kintex. Only five parts makers including Mando displayed about 50 parts related to such systems, such as an automatic emergency brake system and an adaptive cruise control, which adjusts the distance between two cars and a car’s speed automatically.

Korean automakers also focused more on showing products that they wanted to sell.

The nation’s leading automaker Hyundai Motor unveiled its crossover utility vehicle Enduro concept car, which the company said it is developing with a goal of expanding its market share in the global SUV market. The nation’s smallest automaker Ssangyong Motor unveiled the XAV concept, which will be an addition to the company’s SUV line up. But developing more cars that could provide better fuel efficiency and better driving power shouldn’t be everything.

Another disappointment was that the organizing body completely failed to attract super brands to Korea.

The crowd was excited after the media reported that Lamborghini was going to participate in the Seoul show. But the company canceled about two weeks before the kickoff, saying it wasn’t able to send any cars because of the schedule. The organizing committee said there were world premieres of six cars in the event, but none of them were by foreign automakers.

Although some automakers did have the Asian premieres of certain models such as the C4 (Citroen), HR-V (Honda), Murano SUV (Nissan) and 308 (Peugeot).

By comparison, more than 70 models were premiered in the Geneva Motor Show in March. The Shanghai Motor Show will have more than 20 world premieres. Even the New York Auto Show that kicked off on the same day as the Seoul show, had 22 world premiere models, although the organizing body of the Seoul event said New York was a much smaller show.

“It is hard to find a reason to participate in the Seoul Motor Show, since it is an event smaller than Geneva and Shanghai,” an official of a foreign car brand said on condition of anonymity.

“They seriously need to consider making a new schedule for the event.”

It was even hard to find many foreign reporters at Kintex except for the Chinese.

BY KWON SANG-SOO [kwon.sangsoo@joongangco.kr]

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