Rejoice Toyota fans, but this year the Camry has won the top award for the best car in Korea by the country’s Automobile Journalist Association. Toyota Korea president Hisao Nakabayashi was nearly overcome with emotion:
“Thank you. I feel great honor to win this award. It is really unexpected”, said Nakabayashi when he accepted the award during the ceremony that took place in Seoul last week.
Hyundai was visibly jilted, as their representatives, a fixture at these award shows, were nowhere to be seen. There were, however, some angry comments by Hyundai management:
A Hyundai official, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Korea Herald: “We are perplexed. It would have been a lot better if a Korean brand won the top prize.” The new Santa Fe that was handed a “special award” probably added insult to injury rather than appease the Korean automaker executives.
Interestingly, the Camrys sold in Korea are made in the good ole U.S. of A to take advantage of the KORUS FTA and to bypass the high yen:
Toyota found a way to circumvent the strong yen: it decided that the new Camry, which was introduced last January by company CEO Akio Toyoda personally, would be imported from the U.S. instead of Japan.
The thinking was that, in doing so, Toyota would take advantage of both the Korea-U.S. free trade pact and the favorable won-U.S. dollar exchange rate and keep prices down. They were right: the Camry ended 2012 as the second best-selling imported car in the country behind the BMW 520d.
At the end of the day, it would seem that the Korean consumers will be the main winners.
Hyundai, on the other hand, seeing that imports are encroaching on its market share, has already reduced prices on its flagship models and will ramp up its marketing efforts in its home market.