A Green and Intelligent Paradigm for the Auto Industry

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Monday, April 4th, 2011

IT Times was able to get some time with Choi Joong-Kyung, Minister of Knowledge Economy, to ask him questions about this Seoul Motor Show 2011. The following are excerpts from the interview with him - Ed.

Choi Joong-Kyung,  Minister of Knowledge Economy

Choi Joong-Kyung, Minister of Knowledge Economy

Q: The Ministry of Knowledge Economy has always actively supported the Seoul Motor Show. What are the expectations that the Ministry has for the Show, and has the Show lived up to those?
A: This is the eighth year of Seoul Motor Show, and we are expecting the total economic effects to be around US$ 1 billion with 139 participant companies from eight countries, 12,000 foreign buyers, and trade consultation of about US$ 1.3 billion.
So far, the Seoul Motor Show has successfully presented global automobile market trends and new technologies while contributing to the industry's progress by promoting competition between manufacturers via comparative exhibitions. Likewise, this year's motor show will also introduce the current trends and future directions of the automobile market. And at the same time, it will encourage the public's interest so that Seoul Motor Show can become a barometer of the global car industry, as well as create new demand to boost the economy after the financial crisis.

Q: There is some debate about whether the greatest auto show is the Detroit Auto Show or the Geneva Auto Show. There are also the Tokyo Auto Show, the Paris Auto Show, and many others throughout the world. How does the Seoul Motor Show stack up against these others?
A : The Seoul Motor Show has a relatively short history compared to the Detroit, Frankfurt, and Paris shows that began more than 100 years ago, and the Tokyo Motor show which has spanned about 50 years now. It is also true that we still have room for improvement in terms of scale, including the size of the exhibition and number of participant companies. However, the Seoul Motor Show has steadily grown into the biggest automobile show in Korea that welcomes over a million visitors, echoing Korea's standing as the fifth largest auto maker in the world. There will be more investment in the coming years for expansion of the exhibition hall, accommodations, and other infrastructure, so we believe that the show will improve soon.

Q : The trend of more environmentally-friendly cars has continued from the Seoul Motor Show 2009, such that this year s SMS slogan is "Evolution, Green Revolution on Wheels." How has the Ministry of Knowledge Economy contributed to the continued exploration of environmentally-friendly cars in Korea, and what would the ministry like to see happen in the future along those lines?
A : Last September, with the launch of BlueOn, a high-speed electric car, the first of its kind in Korea and second in the world, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy announced the ‘Strategy for Development and Distribution of Electric Vehicles,' and in December, the ‘Strategy for Development and Distribution of Green Cars' in association with the relevant authorities. The Korean government is working closely with related industries in order to set up detailed plans and expand green car distribution by developing technologies and fostering specialists.
Clean diesel cars will dominate the market for a short period as they do not require any special infrastructure, and later, more diverse types of vehicles such as hybrid, electric, and hydrogen fuel cars will be competing in the industry as well. Given that many countries around the world are currently focusing on developing electric vehicles, the electric car market could arrive sooner than we think. The global community has been continuously reinforcing environmental regulations to respond to climate change and raw material exhaustion, so the eco-friendly car market will grow much faster with the industries' investment and government's policy support.

Q: Technologies such as car-based networks and ubiquitous computing in cars are often talked about, but the ideas rarely make it out of the planning stages. Some ideas seem more fanciful than practical. What new automobile technologies does the Ministry favor and push, aside from green technology?
A : The current paradigm of car technologies can be largely classified into green cars and intelligent cars. With the development of information communication and bioengineering, intelligent cars, in particular, are evolving into a ‘smart car' that are different from the conventional automobiles used for simple transportation. Smart car technologies used to be focused on safety issues, but recently, they began to embrace convenience and entertainment as well, by, for instance, linking with smart phone services. The Ministry is planning to set development plans for smart car technologies as well as relevant infrastructure.

Q: The global economic crisis has sparked a shift in the automotive industry to favor Asian automobile manufacturers over the traditional heavy-hitters in the US and Europe. How have the Ministry and/or the Seoul Motor Show taken advantage of this change?
A : To Korea, the global recession presented both a crisis and an opportunity; the government's rapid and strategic response to the economic slowdown made it possible to make the best out of a difficult situation. Particularly, the Korean automobile industry recorded the highest sales in history: a total of 4.27 million cars were produced, which is a 21.3 percent increase from the previous year. And it has also grown in terms of quality, as many Korean cars obtained the highest level in various safety classes. The sales of mid- to large-size models went up as well. Recent achievements like these will enhance the global reputation of the Seoul Motor Show, attracting more companies and visitors as a result.

Q: What are you personally looking forward to at the Seoul Motor Show 2011?
A : The Korean car market has already entered the maturing phase as the number of cars owned by the citizens has exceeded a staggering 18 million now. However, although the country became the world's fifth largest car manufacturer at an unprecedented pace, Korea's automobile culture has not been able to match the quantitative growth. It is time for us to exert more effort to improve the cultural aspect as well. I hope this motor show will become a starting point for the industry and relevant organizations to pay more attention to improving the automobile culture. In any case, the motor show should be fun, and I hope many people will enjoy this show as a festival.

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