EUROPEAN CARMAKERS should take a close look at bargains to be found in South Korea.
With Korean companies in distress, American automakers are suddenly everywhere. General Motors is talking to Daewoo and Ford to Samsung. Chrysler has admitted interest in buying a company.
Where are the Europeans?
They have either been caught off guard or are being overly cautious.
Prudence is understandable. Ford's long ties with Kia never yielded much. Moreover, non-equity links with Korean companies have never gone smoothly for the European, Japanese and American companies that have tried them.
But this may be a once-in-a-lifetime chance for an Asian foothold. The winners in these sweepstakes could dictate terms of the opening of the Korean market and would have new routes into emerging countries around the world.
Europeans remember the trouble they've had digesting past 'bargains.' Peugeot nearly choked on Chrysler's Talbot; Fiat struggled with Lancia and Alfa Romeo. Volkswagen is still working on Seat and Skoda.
But those European acquisitions largely duplicated what the buyer already offered in the marketplace. The Koreans offer a base in a part of the world that - despite the current crisis - will grow more than anywhere else.
Europe's carmakers must do more than plan for globalization in the long term. They must react speedily to opportunities that arise overnight.