Korea's bus market that has been dominated by domestic auto makers is changing quickly as Chinese-made buses are making inroads into a market thus far protected by the strict certification scheme.
The first Chinese bus manufacturer that is leading the initiative is Sunlong Bus, China's No. 5 bus company. Since establishing a Korean office in 2013, it sold 110 25-seater buses in the first year.
The company sold most of its buses in Jeju Island for carrying Chinese tourists. It increased the number of buses sold last year to 400 and set this year's sales goal to 1,000 including newly imported 35-seater buses. Given the nation's mid-sized bus market is about 6,000 a year, this is equivalent to about 20 percent.
Despite the general perception that Chinese-made buses are cheap, buses manufactured by Sunlong Bus are not so cheap. For example, the price of a 25-seater Duego EX is 66.5 million won, about 5 million won more expensive than that of domestic comparable models.
Following Sunlong Bus, other Chinese bus makers are aiming to enter the Korean market. SAIC Motor Corp. recently showcased its bus models in the Electric Vehicle Expo held recently in Jeju. Zhongtong Bus also is reviewing a plan to enter the Korean market jointly with local partner Woojin Industrial Systems, a rolling stock manufacturer.