Call it protectionist, call it patriotic, or even call it heroic: President Trump wants fair trade with South Korea. That would include the Asian nation buying a fair number of American vehicles. That’s a problem, because South Koreans don’t want American cars. As Reuters reports, GM, Ford, and Chrysler cars need to be more efficient, stylish, or affordable to make that happen.
American automakers face stiff challenges in South Korea. Kia and Hyundai dominate the market, thanks in part to offering highly affordable cars. Reuters says only 15 percent of vehicles sold in South Korea are import models. That’s not much, and includes cars from other foreign brands like Nissan, BMW, and Toyota.
Customizing at least some vehicles for different regions in the world is a great strategy. It’s paid off fabulously for Toyota. For example, the Sequoia is an SUV you can only get in North America. In Japan, it would do poorly. But here, the Sequoia constantly brings in big sales figures.
Before you feel enraged at the rudeness of South Koreans, or think US automakers are pathetic, consider how they could thrive in other markets by mimicking that strategy. Or we could just shove Impalas and Fusions down everyone’s throat.