[Author Prev][Author Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Author Index][Thread Index]
Audis in Korea (longish)
Recently (ok, it was November) I had the "opportunity" to work for three weeks
in Taejon, South Korea. Being a car guy and otherwise pretty bored, I was of
course blurting out, "Hey, there's a [non-Korean car]", whenever I spotted one.
This failed to amuse my companions, who attempted to damage my health by
teaching me to smoke and drink. I had a beer every other night, but felt that
the copious secondhand smoke available was more than enough to compensate my
abstention from regularly scheduled exercise. I am forced to admit that there
was a hike one day that I enjoyed, but that was the only day in three weeks
that I wasn't just wishing time would pass faster so I could go home. Wait, I
think I was intending to write about cars.
Therefore. There are Audis in Korea. Just not many quattros. In fact, as I
decided to keep my car-related outbursts to myself (mostly) and began instead
writing down the daily observations, the (old) A6 was slightly ahead or tied
with the Mercury Sable for most commonly observed non-Korean car. But I only
saw one A6q. And then on the last day I saw about 10 Sables during the bus ride
back to Kimpo, just blew the Audis out of the water. That was the day I also
saw the only 200 observed, don't know if it was a q though.
I have tabulated the full results at http://www.srv.net/~hah/audi/koreacars.htm
so I won't list them all here.
Which leads to the indigenous cars, made by Hyundai, Daewoo, Kia, Ssangyong,
and Samsung. Hyundai in particular has quite a proliferation of models, with
very small increments of size between most of them. There is a tiny tall car
(Atoz) and the large Grandeur, but many different platforms clustered around
the subcompact size. I guess they haven't been following the platform-reduction
strategy of Western automakers. My three coworkers and I drove around in a
Hyundai Avante (a sedan, the wagon is an Avante Touring), a little smaller than
a Civic. I of course saw many of the Daewoo models now being introduced to the
US. The three different orientations of bars on the grilles of these cars are
irritating to look at, or maybe that's just me. I thought that all the Daewoo
Arcadias I saw were Acura/Honda Legends until I got close enough to see the
badges - that's got to be a licensed copy, or else Honda doesn't have any
lawyers. There were many Kia Sportage mini-SUVs with "TURBO INTERCOOLER WAGON"
decals on their doors, but since most vehicles larger than subcompact were
diesel-powered, this didn't connote quite the fun quotient of an S6 avant.
Ssangyong makes mostly SUVs, the Ford Explorer of Korea seems to be their
Musso, of which an inexplicable number have undeserved Mercedes emblems, and a
big car that looks suspiciously like an S-class, the Chairman Executive.
Samsung apparently has only one model, a (has to be license-built again) copy
of the Maxima but with a better-looking front fascia than we see in the US
(that threw me for a while, those doors and taillights look like...) and a
couple different engine options. I have since read that the government has
ordered reorganizations in the chaebol (conglomerates: Hyundai, et al) and
Samsung is selling its car operations to Kia in order to focus on electronics.
The price of gasoline works out to about one US dollar per liter, while diesel
is about one-third of that. Which would explain the popularity of larger diesel
Most of the cars were quite new, I believe there are regressive taxes in place
to force older cars off the road, and the oldest car I saw was a late-70
Mercedes. The larger new cars had fancy headlights, I believe they were just
projectors but did seem to be very bright and a different color than the more
normal running lights; there were so many of these cars running around I can't
believe the lights were really HIDs though.
Despite the popularity of SUVs such as the Galloper Exceed and Sportage, there
were very few pick-um-up trucks that we have so many of in the US. One Hyundai
copy of the old Subaru Brat, and one Chevy C/K that looked like it used to be
in the US military. The trucks used for work purposes were cab-over-chassis
panel trucks, with smaller varieties than typically seen in the US, such as the
Trade, Porter and Bongo (our favorite car name to pronounce was of course the
Wide Bongo, it even got a song of sorts).
And the driving! While in the US we have traffic laws that are sometimes
broken, Koreans seem to have traffic suggestions that don't really matter. I
hear that some places are worse, like Italy (traffic rumors?), but I was very
surprised to see only one fender-bender in all the time I was there. It must be
that all the drivers are expecting to be cut off and swerve in front of one
another, and there is enough traffic that speeds are fairly low most of the
time. But watching a big, loaded bus zip through a fully-red light really makes
you ponder your place in the cosmos.
Guess I'm done now.
1991 200 quattro, 98k, send snow (no BRAKE light during 50mph ABS stop in ye
olde high school parking lot - was it that bumpy 10 years ago, or did I never
hit 50 in it back then?)
1988 GTI 16v, 185k, no ABS, vacuum assist