Slices of Japanese business, politics and life
As a child in the early ’80s, I remember spending a summer in Seoul and taking a trip with relatives to the countryside in a Hyundai Pony, South Korea’s first homegrown car. I spoke no Korean, but learned one word quickly enough: “lemon”.
Hyundai Motor has certainly come a long way since then.
Thirty-four years after introducing the Pony hatchback at the Turin Motor Show, Hyundai is the world’s fourth-largest carmaker, surpassing Ford Motor in the first half of this year. With the rest of the industry reeling from slumping sales, Hyundai’s charge has been especially conspicuous this year as it grabbed market share across the world and even made record profits in the latest quarter.
As my colleague Cheon Jong-woo and I wrote last week, Hyundai’s rise is making Japanese rivals nervous.
While Hyundai’s mounting success, founded on offering quality products at cheaper prices, has been in the cards for a while now, there are two new factors that worry the Japanese: a strong yen, coupled with the new government’s apparent indifference towards it, and South Korea’s progress in sealing free trade pacts.