Super-Luxury Automakers Follow the Money in Korea

Many of Korea’s millionaires are just a generation or two removed from the days when their families lived humbly, so the supercars are one way to make a show of their elevated socioeconomic status.

Vince Courtenay, Correspondent

April 21, 2015

3 Min Read
Aston Martin looks for Vanquish to fetch 307000 in Korea
Aston Martin looks for Vanquish to fetch $307,000 in Korea.

Statisticians estimate there are 200,000 people in South Korea whose assets exceed 1 billion won ($1.2 million).

Such numbers warm the hearts of the world’s producers of super-luxury performance cars, who are competing intensely in this affluent market segment. It should be noted that the rest of Korea is in near-recession status.

Many of Korea’s millionaires are just a generation or two removed from the days when their families lived humbly, so the supercars are one way to make a show of their elevated socioeconomic status.

Bentleys, Rolls-Royces, Maseratis, and Ferraris and other elite supercars have been selling like hotcakes. Sales in 2014 of upper-end six-figure supercars of the brands registered with Korea’s Automobile Importers and Distributors Assn. climbed almost 100% to 5,616, compared with 2,923 in 2013.

The KAIDA tabulation does not include sales numbers for Maserati, Lamborghini or Ferrari, which scored huge successes last year.

Maserati’s recent tremendous worldwide growth apparently may have leveled, as noted by Fiat Chrysler Automobiles CEO Sergio Marchionne at the Geneva Auto Show earlier this month, but not so in South Korea.

Maserati, for instance, sold 723 vehicles last year, an increase of 469% over 2013. Part of this success resulted from release of its “almost super-priced” Ghibli model, which sells in Korea for about 100 million won ($90,000).

The same Korean distributor also delivered 100 Ferrari units, more than doubling previous-year sales.

Rolls Royce sold 45 units in the country in 2014, a rise of 50% over 2013, while Bentley deliveries nearly doubled, with 322 sold.

The Rolls Royce dealer in the affluent Gangnam district of southern Seoul sold more Flying Spur models last year than any other dealership in the world and was second globally in overall sales to Rolls dealers in the super-rich nation of Dubai.

Ferrari and Maserati are doing so well that a new dealership/service center is planned for Daegu, Korea’s fourth-largest city (population 2.5 million), later this year. Heretofore the action has been focused in Gangnam.

Their success has whetted the appetite of Hyosung Group, Korea’s 25th-largest conglomerate by asset rating, which has an offer on the table to acquire the Ferrari-Maserati distributor Forza Motor Korea for 20 billion won ($18 million).

Jaguar last week introduced its $250,000 Jaguar F-type Project 7 along with the $260,000 Range Rover Autobiography Black created by its Special Vehicles Operations’ custom-build service.

On March 20, Aston Martin announced its debut in the Korean market by holding a sales launch event at the British Embassy in downtown Seoul. On view were three models of the venerable upscale British marque; the “lower price” Rapide S, the Vanquish roadster and the DB9 grand touring.

Aston Martin people say they already have orders for the Rapide S, which has an entry price of 168 million won ($151,600). The Vanquish models with 5.0L, 517-hp V-12 engines start at about 340 million won ($307,000) and the DB9 is being offered at 399 million won ($360,000).

The same company that is importing and distributing Aston Martin models in Korea, Kiheung International, will begin marketing the McLaren range of supercars when its showroom and service center opens in mid-April in Bampo, an even more-upscale enclave within the Gangnam district.

On hand at the sales launch at the British Embassy was Aston Martin Chairman Ulrich Bez, who told reporters and potential buyers he was sure the British brand would do well because the Korean market has many customers “who love well-designed, special and emotional products.”

Aston Martin public-affairs people did not downplay the fact that Aston Martins have been the star vehicles in many of the old and more recent James Bond movies.

The Mercedes and Bentley sales center is located not far from the Aston Martin and McLaren outlet, in Gangnam’s Cheongdam neighborhood. Forza Motors, the current distributor and sales and service company for Ferrari and Maserati, is located there, as well.


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