The usually enclosed nation has taken a different, modern approach to the auto industry in the past years, with German premium brands now commonplace and ready to be discarded for the ultraluxury brands.
In Seoul’s upscale Gangnam borrow the German luxury brands are now seen so down to Earth that young, rich South Koreans have started to jokingly refer to BMW’s 5 Series as the Hyundai Sonata, for example. Now the choice goes towards flashier Maseratis, Bentleys and other crème de la crème brands. Six-figure plus cars have seen a rise in demand as the conservative home of Hyundai has finally accepted conspicuous purchases – with younger, affluent Koreans switching away from their parents frugal way of life. “While our parents saved a lot in the past, younger people nowadays spend on things they can enjoy,” said chef-restauranteur Song Ji-hoon, who switched his Mercedes-Benz CLS for a Maserati Ghibli. “The street is now flooded with German cars. My car is not something one can see often,” he commented.
For example, the Seoul dealership of VW AG ultraluxury division Bentley Motors was 2014’s best seller of Flying Spur sedan models, with the outlet coming in second in terms of overall global sales after the Dubai one. South Korea also ranks as the seventh-biggest single market for Fiat Chrysler Automobiles ‘ luxury division Maserati – with sales jumping five times after last year’s launch of the Ghibli sports sedan. Until 2011, the imported luxury market was quasi-inexistent in South Korea, but that year a trade deal unleashed the buying spree of luxury products from BMW, Audi and Mercedes-Benz.