SEOUL - The 1997 Seoul International Motor Show demonstrated that the South Korean auto industry is as capable as any of developing extravagant concept cars.
The wide range of prototype and production models proved Korean makers are no longer dependant upon licensing agreements with Japanese and German carmakers.
Daewoo Motor Co., for example, showed three pure concept cars - and two models that could switch to volume production - alongside the three new models it has launched in the past five months.
Aimed at the world
The 1995 Seoul show, the industry's first, focused on production cars aimed at the South Korean market. This year the abundance of hardware was clearly aimed at a global audience.
'Korea's auto industry is looking outward to the world,' said Ssangyong Motor Co. President Lee Jong-Kyu.
It was not a significant international show. Non-Korean carmakers played a minor role. Sixteen automakers from six countries attended. In 1995, 11 makers from four countries exhibited.
The non-Koreans were housed on the third floor of the show, beside makers of motorcycles and components. In 1995, non-Koreans occupied a tent outside the main exhibition building.
Despite the rich display of Korean models, several major products were missing. Kia Motors Corp. offered no explanation for not showing its new Sephia - even though the car is due to launch in the next few weeks. The maker, Korea's second-biggest after Hyundai, also held back its KV-II minivan, which is scheduled to debut in September.
Hyundai disappointed those who expected to see the new Epsilon 0.8-liter and 1.0-liter engines that will power the MX mini, due out this fall. Nor did it show its 4.5-liter, V-8 gasoline engine, which is being developed jointly with Mitsubishi for the next generation Hyundai Grandeur/Mitsubishi Debonair in 1999.
Hyundai did, however, show an aluminum-bodied Tiburon coupe. This is the maker's first model to offer side-door and rear-seat airbags.
Here are some highlights of the show:
Daewoo Joyster concept. Styled by the company's Design Forum studio in Seoul, it has a 2515mm wheelbase and is 4039mm long, 1778mm wide and 1270mm high.
'This is something we did just for fun,' said Ulrich Bez, vice-president of engineering. 'It's not a candidate for production; I think we have to do a second (concept) version.' One unresolved issue was whether it should be front- or rear-wheel-drive.
Daewoo Lanos cabriolet. The company has decided to go ahead with the convertible version of the Lanos mini. It may be assembled in Italy by Bertone.
Daewoo Tacuma concept. This small minivan showed some of the ideas Daewoo is experimenting with. It has a 2591mm wheelbase and is 4191mm long, 1740mm wide and 1600mm high. The engine is an all-new inline aluminum unit code-named XS-6. Daewoo will launch its MV-II minivan later this year.
Daewoo Matiz mini. This is next year's replacement for the Suzuki-based Tico. It has a 2337mm wheelbase and is 3505mm long, 1499mm wide and 1473mm high. It is powered by a three-cylinder, 0.8-liter engine.
Hyundai HMX show car. The vehicle resembles the MX production car due in September, but without the dual stacking projecting headlamps, heavy grille and hood trim and side cladding. The MX mini is powered by an 0.8-liter engine for the domestic market and a 1.0-liter for the export version. It is 3531mm long, 1626mm high, 1575mm wide and has a 2388mm wheelbase. Planned output is 100,000 units a year.
Hyundai SLV concept. Hyundai executives offered no technical details on the 5639mm-long, upper-luxury vehicle.
Kia KMS-III concept. The sporty coupe is based on the Sephia. It was presented as a competitor to the Hyundai Tiburon. It is 3989mm long, 1702mm wide and 1219mm high.
Ssangyong W-Coupe. The four-seat W-Coupe was probably the show's biggest attraction, even though it is very unlikely to go into production. 'Some 400 or 500 a year is a possibility,' said Ssangyong stylist Ken Greenley. The car is based on the last-generation Mercedes-Benz E class platform. It is 4826mm long, 1829mm wide and 1316mm high, and rides on a 2718mm wheelbase. It is powered by a 2.3-liter, double-overhead-cam, turbocharged Mercedes engine rated at 220ps.
Kia Vagabond concept. This is a preview of the Credos/Clarus wagon, which launches in February 1988.