SOUTH KOREA: Toyota car of the year victory upsets Hyundai
An hour before the awards ceremony was set to begin, Toyota Korea was told that its Camry would be crowned the 2013 Korea Car of the Year, a stunning feat for a foreign brand.
According to the Korea Herald, it was unprecedented for an imported car to grab the honour and especially for Toyota which had stood resilient against the widespread doubt that had shrouded the release of the vehicle last January.
Toyota had pretty much known that its hybrid compact Prius would win the “green car” award, but did not expect the Camry to do so well, the report said.
Toyota Korea president Hisao Nakabayashi, who spoke in fluent Korean in his winning speeches for the Lexus GS and Prius in sub categories, asked to speak through an interpreter when the Camry was named as the year’s best car to more accurately relay his emotions, which ran quite high.
“I feel great honor to win this award. It is really unexpected,” he said, tearing up during the awarding ceremony held at a Seoul hotel.
The Camry became the second most sold import car following BMW’s 520d sedan in 2012 and the award was in recognition of such achievements.
Hyundai Motor Group was caught by surprise at the Camry’s rise, industry watchers and insiders at the carmaker, told the Herald.
Since the Korea Car of the Year award was established by the Korea Automobile Journalist Association in 2010, Hyundai had swept the awards. In 2011, affiliate Kia Motors’ K5 took home the top prize, in 2012, it was Hyundai’s i40.
The humiliation for Hyundai was made more complete, some critics said, as Hyundai’s Santa Fe sport utility vehicle and BMW’s 3 Series were chosen for a “special award” to soothe them for having lost to the Camry by a “razor-thin margin”.
Having been tipped off about Toyota’s victory, no Hyundai officials attended the event.
“We are perplexed. It would been a lot better if a Korean brand won the top prize,” said a Hyundai official, declining to be named.
Toyota’s victory was more significant because it was so unanticipated, the paper said.
“When we pledged to sell 600 Camrys every month, scepticism was prevalent,” said Kim Sung-whan, a Toyota Korea spokesperson. “Toyota was not on the shopping list of Korean consumers at the time.”
To take advantage of the favorable won-dollar foreign exchange rate, Toyota imported all Camry vehicles for sale in Korea from the US. The Korea-US free trade pact helped keep prices down.
The Korean unit also started a TV commercial featuring actress Kim Tae-hee as a passenger, not a driver, to add a more affectionate image to the flagship classic sedan ? an idea that came from the Korean chief, Kim said.
One year later, the Camry was second only to BMW’s 520d sedan as the most sold imported car. In December, the Camry was the monthly top seller.
During the same period, Toyota’s car sales also soared, more than doubling to 10,795 last year from the 5,020 the company sold in 2011. Despite the strong presence of German carmakers in Korea, Toyota’s market share increased from 4.78% to 8.25%.
Japan’s national television channel NHK reported the awarding event on the scene, while the news was features on the front page of Yahoo Japan all day long.
The weakening Japanese yen is another positive factor for Japanese brands in Korea.
Toyota’s Kim told the Korea Herald the local unit has no plan to make major changes in its operation for now, including pricing policy.
“Toyota now produces much of its cars in overseas plants. The volatile currency would not affect our business policy in the short term,” he said, adding that the company would continue its offensive with US-made models such as the Avalon.
Hyundai, which is losing market share gradually to import brands at home, is also expected to step up efforts to respond to the sales recovery of Toyota and other Japanese carmakers this year.
“If the yen continues weakening, Japanese carmakers would import Japan-made cars as well as US-made models. That is likely to lead to price cuts,” said Lee Won-hee, Hyundai’s chief financial officer.
Hyundai that has already cut prices of flagship models, pledged to roll out Korea-exclusive models to better appeal to domestic demands, he said.
Quarterly results season is with is again with some passable numbers from the biggies already in and more to come. As usual, we have grouped the coverage together in one handy spot....
LMC Automotive's service provides customers with the very latest monthly estimates of passenger car production across all of Europe. Updated monthly and provided model-by-model, and available only via...
The Toyota group sold 4.91m units in the first half of 2013, making it the world's top car seller in the period for the second straight year....
Hyundai Motor affiliate Kia Motors second-quarter net profit jumped 7.8% from a year earlier on the back of brisk overseas sales - mainly in China....
BMW said it is fully prepared to meet the Unite union in the UK to further discuss plans to change its pension arrangements for new employees....
Hyundai Motor's second-quarter net profit stayed near a record high achieved a year earlier, beating market forecasts, as strong China growth overpowered rising competition and tight supply that erode...
Nissan Motor plans to churn out about 40% more luxury vehicles at its factory in Tochigi Prefecture this fiscal year in anticipation of increased exports to North America....
Unite, Britain's biggest union, has warned BMW that it may take industrial action ballot if the company pushes ahead with its plans to close its final salary pension scheme to new entrants....
- THE WEEK THAT WAS - Scion and Ford workers' chop
- Clio R.S. 220 Trophy & future Renaults
- January 2016, management briefing (Part 2)
- THE WEEK - New car, mergers, results, Iran
- Yanfeng Automotive Interiors VP Q&A
- Ford Europe looks to cut staff
- Daimler posts record sales – investors unimpressed
- New Ford plant for Mexico & Prius rival - report
- Geneva premieres list - Bentley Mulsanne facelift
- Volvo nixes range extenders