BY BRIAN BONITTO Associate editor — Auto and Entertainment firstname.lastname@example.org
SOUTH Korea's ambassador Kimo Lim's tour of duty to Jamaica is different from his previous United States assignment.
Not only is he now driving in the left lane, but he observes the prevalence of Asian-made vehicles.
"They're mostly Japanese vehicles on Jamaica's roads," he told Auto.
Lim, now one-and-a-half years into his mission, expressed pleasure at seeing the growing number of South Korean cars.
"I am very happy to see Hyundai and Kia cars on the roads. They are really good vehicles," he said. "The companies have manufacturing plants around the world."
Hyundai and Kia Motors, both headquartered in Seoul, are South Korea's first- and second-largest automobile manufacturers, respectively. Kia Motors is partly owned by the Hyundai Motor Group, the fourth largest automaker in the world based on annual vehicle sales in 2010 after Toyota, General Motors, and Volkswagen AG.
"The cars are 70 per cent similar in make-up," he said.
The South Korean ambassador predicted that the brands will grow in popularity as in the US. Last year, Hyundai accounted for 5.1 per cent of the American auto market. Michael Sprague, Kia vice president of marketing and public relations in the US, was quoted by The Detroit Bureau as saying that between November of 2008 and November of 2011, his company sales grew by 78 per cent as it rolled out the Kia Soul, Kia Optima and Kia Sorento.
"This is because they are good quality and reasonably priced. Hyundai and Kia are also famous for their warranty," he said.
Lim said in the US during the height of the global meltdown, the companies had a warranty which enabled them to return the vehicles if the drivers had lost their jobs.
"Of the millions sold, only a few hundred were returned," he chuckled. "They are lucky vehicles." In Jamaica, Hyundai is distributed by Key Motors on Hagley Park Road in St Andrew owned by Desmond Panton. Kia Motors authorised dealer is Dwight Moore who operates on Chelsea Avenue in the Corporate Area.