I heard on the news the other day that imported car ownership has reached an all time high in Korea. It’s now a whopping 2%! This may not be high in comparison to the States, where the meaning of local and imported brands are somewhat blurred. Nobody looks at you funny for driving a Camry of an Accord. But it is still a big deal in Korea where imported brands are seen as a luxury beyond the reach but for the most affluent Koreans. The 2% signifies a couple of things: Living standards in Korea has risen as a whole, tariffs and prices on imported cars are coming down, and the social stigma of buying a imported car is disappearing.
As I was getting off the bus to get to work this morning, it dawned on me that my office is located in in a place that has the highest concentration of import car showrooms in Seoul if not all of Korea. Within a 100 meter radius of my office, you have showrooms for BMW, Benz, Mini, Infiniti, VW*, with Lamboughini, Maserati and Ferrari poised to open shiny new showrooms soon.
Even the building I work in is home to a Ford showroom. Ford, the luxury brand. I sure hope their salespeople have the honesty to tell their customers that Ford isn’t really in the business of making “luxury cars”.
* I count VW as a luxury brand because according to some unconfirmed estimates, VW sells half of all its Phaetons in Korea. The Phaeton is VW’s $80K foray into the luxury car market and has been a spectacular flop in the US.