Imported car makers in Korea compete to launch driving centers

By Kim Bo-gyung
  • Published : Jan 12, 2018 - 15:27
  • Updated : Jan 12, 2018 - 15:27
In response to growing imported car sales in South Korea, carmakers are striving to bolster brand loyalty by building centers for drivers where they can experience high-performance vehicles.

BMW Korea, the local unit of the luxury German carmaker, took the lead by introducing its driving center on Incheon’s Yeongjongdo in 2014 amid skepticism surrounding the new automotive venue.

Three years later, it has become one of the most well-known and popular places to visit among Korean drivers and tourists.

Following BMW’s success, Mercedes-Benz Korea and Jaguar Land Rover Korea have also come up with plans to open driving centers here.

“Driving centers offer a unique opportunity for Korean drivers, who are rather new to high-performance vehicles and circuits, to take flagship cars out for a spin around the track,” said Kim Pil-soo, an automotive engineering professor at Daelim University.

“Cutting-edge thrilling features also symbolize the brand’s technical status, so carmakers can improve their brand image by exposing such aspects to drivers,” Kim added.

BMW Korea’s winter driving program is held at the BMW driving center on Yeongjongdo in Incheon. (BMW Korea)

The trend is expected to continue as imported car sales in Korea are estimated to rise 9 percent year-on-year to 256,000 units in 2018 from 233,088 units last year, according to data from the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors Association.

BMW invested 77 billion won ($72.3 million) to construct the brand’s first driving center in Asia on Yeongjongdo, Incheon, spanning 236,167 square meters of land, equivalent to some 33 soccer fields, the company said.

Equipped with driving tracks, automobile exhibits and more, an accumulated 580,000 people have visited BMW’s driving center on Yeongjongdo, as of 2017.

BMW Korea recently reached an agreement with Incheon Airport to expand the driving center to accommodate more visitors, the company said.

Mercedes-Benz Korea, which was No. 1 in sales of imported cars here for two consecutive years in 2017, has reached an agreement with Samsung C&T to re-brand the former Everland Speedway in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province, as the AMG Speedway, the company said.

“We plan to support the AMG Speedway to create a new culture of high-performance cars,” the company said.

The German luxury brand declined to share details of the opening date and who the track will be open to.

Joining the race is Jaguar Land Rover Korea, which launched five pop-up concept driving centers in regions where it does not operate showrooms in December last year.

By Kim Bo-gyung (