Honda website
Honda website

MAY 27, 1996

Koreans eye Grand Prix racing

IT is inevitable that there will soon be a significant South Korean attack in Grand Prix racing with several of the country's automobile makers understood to be considering F1 as a means of attracting attention to their products.

Korea is being heavily targeted at the moment by F1 marketing men, although to date the only concrete evidence of this is the Korean Air deal with Tyrrell.

Korean industry is dominated by huge conglomerates called "chaebols". The four biggest Hyundai, Samsung, LG (formerly Lucky Goldstar) and Daewoo produce a startling 57% of all Korean exports.

Hyundai was the first Korean car makers - Hyundai Motors being formed in 1967 to assemble Ford cars. The company went on to build Korea's first car - the Pony - in 1975 and the company made a big impact in the USA in 1986 when it launched the Excel for the US market. Last year Hyundai sold 1.4m cars around the world. It has not, however, entered any high profile motor sport.

Daewoo Motor is currently making a big push into the European car markets with its Nexia and Espero models. It is investing heavily in new car factories and aims to be producing 2m cars a year by the year 2000. In December 1994, the company announced plans to be involved in Formula 1 racing but nothing has yet happened.

Samsung is to launch its first cars within the next 18 months. It has just finished building a car factory at Shinho, near Pusan, and is aiming for a major export drive, as the Korean car market is tightly controlled and dominated by Samsung's rivals.

SsangYong is a smaller chaebol but is producing very successful jeeps. The company made its first attempt at racing in the Le Mans 24 Hours qualifying recently with a prototype sportscar being driven by Bertrand Gachot. Unfortunately this was destroyed by another car while it was parked beside the track.

There have been rumors in recent months that another Korean car maker Kia is about to be taken over by LG, the only big chaebol currently not involved in automobiles.