SEOUL - There's not a Korean involved in the automotive industry that doesn't recall with great chagrin South Korea's efforts to break into the U.S. car market a decade ago. It didn't work because quality was, well, cheesy.
WhileMotor Co. Ltd. and Kia Motors Corp. have made low-key re-entries with higher-quality products that have achieved so-so results, Daewoo Motor Co. Ltd. is cautiously feeling its way.
Says Kim Woo-Choong, chairman of Daewoo Group: "It was the first time for us. We made some mistakes." Today, Daewoo is revving up for its latest U.S. premier with the introduction of three new models: the Leganza, Nubira and Lanos. "We are in much better position, with better quality and pricing," Mr. Kim says. Instead of introducing its lineup to the general public, Daewoo now plans to target college students, cultivating loyalists who have yet to pledge their brand allegiance; the dream of every car manufacturer.
Daewoo will offer free cars for trial evaluations, free maintenance; interest-free loans, and free car insurance. Contact through the Internet will be the prime advertising tool. Displaying cars on campus will be another. That's not to say that anyone over 21 can't buy a Daewoo car. It's just that 4 million students graduating from college every year makes for an irresistible market.