SEOUL, KOREA - During the Seoul Motor Show 2013, legions of visitors enjoyed a particular simulation game. This was SPIRRA Final Lab designed by Oullim Motors to provide people with a simulated driving experience of SPIRRA. You might scratch your head as to the development of a simulation game by an auto company. However, this convergence of IT and automobiles well mirrors the history of SPIRRA, the Korea’s first hand-made supercar.
Few people know that SPIRRA’s origins actually lie with Oullim Security, a South Korean IT company. Oullim Security is a pioneer within the Korea’s security market, providing firewall and VPN products for a majority of government agencies and financial institutions.
In the past, all Korean security companies had to rely on Intel processor-based CPUs mainly designed for ordinary PCs as a result of lack of technologies and experiences. However, Oullim aggressively invested in the development of an Opteron processor-based CPU suitable for security equipment. Three years later, their efforts paid off and to date they remain the only security company using an Opteron processor-based CPU in Korea.
Their frontier spirit can also be witnessed from the story of their exports. The majority of Korean IT companies avoid exporting their products overseas. This is not because they lack expertise, but rather because of the number of sensitive procedures that must be conducted prior to readying their products for export. Despite this difficult barrier, Oullim Security was recognized with an award from the government for helping contribute to topping Korea’s one million dollar exports.
“It wasn’t easy doing business in other countries. You often face challenges you have never previously experienced in Korea. When we supplied products to one region in Malaysia, the equipment was prone to lightning strikes and bursting. Every time that happened, we had to replace the equipment, and some employees felt that we would be better off stopping the installation of equipment there. However, rather than doing so we developed a power bar that would reduce the likelihood of burst power from lightning strikes. When the power bar is plugged into an outlet, the power will be diffused. Since then, we have witnessed zero bursts because of lightning strikes. On top of this, we obtained a patent for the technology we developed,” Park Dong-hyuk, CEO of Oullim Group said.
The company clearly relishes confronting challenges. However, what led this well-recognized security company to begin manufacturing hand-made sports cars, a still very unfamiliar concept in Korea
“We recognized that we needed branding. As a security company generally relies on business to business, or business to government interactions, not many people have knowledge of our Oullim brand. I believe in brand power. When you take remove the small logo from Apple products, they are merely simple-designed products. With an established and recognizable logo, it brings about enormous brand value. The branding of Korea’s first hand-made cars will never disappear,” Park said.
In July, 2006, Oullim Group took over Proto Motors and changed the name to Oullim Motors. Since then, they diligently gained automobile expertise in manufacturing, tuning, product development, brand licensing, and distribution. However, expectations from Korean media outlets were initially quite low. They felt that it was impossible for the new company to make cars in a fashion that even many global automobile manufacturers were shying away from.
However, their challenging spirit eventually paid off in 2008. SPIRRA S was first unveiled at the Beijing Motor Show. The American auto magazine, Motor Trend, gave the car a glowing review. “It is a fast, good looking supercar with the sort of spec sheet you’d expect to find from something made in Italy.”
At the same year, SPIRRA entered the GT Masters series, the largest racing competition in Korea, and won the championship by beating other renowned names in sports cars. SPIRRA has an optimized design for turbulence, and it is lighter and swifter with a space frame roll cage structure and full carbon body.
It hasn’t always been an easy road for Oullim, however. As Oullim Security diverted a substantial amount of their resources to invest in the automobile business, some of the employees began to disagree with the decision and target their blame at Park. They launched hostile M&A attempts, made a false accusation, and leaked confidential information to rival companies. The company eventually delisted in 2002, and rumors began to circulate that SPIRRA would cease to be produced.
However, the rumor turned out to be false when Oullim Motors launched Spirra Bengari, the first four-door sedan in January off this year, quashing any doubts in the process. Subsequently, the company unveiled the SPIRRA CREGiT with 3.8 engine, and 600 horsepower at the Seoul Motor Show 2013 in March. Over the three-day period, they sold all of the 15 CREGiT 2.7 limited edition models. Oullim now looks to be listed again by acquiring its rival, NexG next year.
SPIRRA is known as a high-priced supercar. Its lowest specification model, SPIRRA-N costs 96 million won (85,000 USD), and their highest model, SPIRRA EX, goes for around 190 million won (170,000 USD). The price tag is clearly too high for most people to purchase. Following the launch of SPIRRA Iconic, costing roughly 60 – 70 million won, Oullim subsequently unveiled the SPIRRA Iconic 2.7, whose price tag is lower at 39 million won. “We want to contribute to the vitalization of Korea’s motor sports culture. By reducing money on marketing, we were able to subsequently reduce the price of the car itself,” Jeff Park, a marketing manager of Oullim Motors, said.
In April, Tom Potter, the CEO of Rush Sports Marketing and Investment, and a former racing driver, visited Oullim while touring the Asian market. Potter said, “I was not aware that Korea produced such a great car, and I was happy to witness and experience it first hand today. I was impressed and believe that SPIRRA has a great potential as an entry-level Supercar.” After driving SPIRRA himself, he described it as a “Monster”.
For the past few years since the establishment of SPIRRA, the company has strived to prove that “Oullim can do it” and “SPIRRA can run on the road”, in order to end the distrust of people who were skeptical about our cars from the onset. From this year forward, we will focus on promoting SPIRRA to a wider range of customers at home and abroad. We are currently developing electric cars with companies in the Netherlands and also actively pursuing European certification for exporting the Bengari. As Korea’s first hand-made supercar, we hope to lead more people into the emergence of true racing culture,” Park said.