It’s surprising, when you consider how big and vibrant the Korean car industry is, that its international motor show fills only one large hall.
Hyundai-Kia combined sold almost four million cars in 2007, almost 80 per cent of them exported, while GM Daewoo – aka Chevrolet – sold another 1.9 million, and there’s Renault-owned Samsung and Ssangyong besides.
However, imports account for only six per cent of new car sales in Korea, virtually all of them medium to high-end models, and the recession kept some makers such as BMW and Jaguar Land Rover away. Only Mercedes, Honda, Toyota, VW, Audi, Lexus and Ford were present – and there wasn’t a supercar in sight.
Despite this, Seoul 2009 had its highlights, every one of the domestic makers debuting something new, including Ssangyong, currently being reconstituted having recently gone under.
But for a show of strength you needed to look to Hyundai and Kia, whose stands were the most lavish, if nothing special compared to the edifices some companies have constructed during fatter times.
Star of Hyundai’s stand was the Blue Will concept, a large plug-in hybrid hatchback whose swirling crease lines were certainly eye-grabbing if not beautiful.
It packs a lot of technology, and there’s serious intent behind it, as it previews an array of hybrids including a pair of Europe-bound models, one of them the plug-in parallel variety, each to have bespoke bodywork.
Blue Will is powered by the 152bhp 1.6-litre direct injection petrol and 134bhp electric motor that will propel the production models, which are due in 2012.