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Women driving car sales in South Korea

Looking to improve sales, South Korean car sellers are adding amenities that will appeal to women, buyers of more than half of all new cars in the country.

business Updated: Feb 01, 2008 12:36 IST

Looking to improve sales, South Korean car sellers are adding amenities that will appeal to women - the purchasers of more than half of all new cars in the country.

By marketing safety and convenience, the automakers are also often influencing the decision-maker when a couple ventures into a car dealership.

"When a couple walks in for a new family car, we pay attention more to the wife, because we know the wife will make the final decision," said Park Joong-Woo, a salesman at a Honda dealer in Seoul.

"Men tend to be interested in where the engines are and how its power system works, but women are looking into whether it is safe, convenient and decent-looking to drive," the salesman said.

About 9.9 million women were registered as the vehicle owners at the end of 2007, representing about 38 per cent of total vehicles registered, according to South Korean police statistics.

As a result, auto manufacturers are learning to highlight features such as a large rear-view mirror to keep an eye on children in the back seat, sensors and around view monitor (AVM) cameras to ease parking and of course the appearance of the car as well.

"I like its large rear-view mirror in particular, that makes me feel comfortable," said Kim Mi-Ryung, 42, who recently bought a Honda CRV after six years of driving a Hyundai Sonata sedan.

Honda's sport utility vehicle, one of South Korea's best selling cars, also appeals to women as it is affordable at $32,000 and is easy for them, who tend to be 10 cm shorter than men, to get in and out of.

Having a monitor in the car influenced Park Jiun, 42, who recently bought a Nissan sport utilities model.

"Parking is such a tricky mission for me in the often crowded lots so I was tempted into the AVM cameras in particular," said Park.

But from a quick scan of a parking lot at a trendy Seoul shopping mall, it is evident that South Korean women are also favouring imported brands like BMW, Audi, Lexus or Porsche.

"Two years ago, about three in 10 women drivers were driving imported cars into our parking lot. Recently, it is usually six," said Chung Jae-Ho who leads the parking service team at Hyundai Department Store in Seoul's uptown.

The Korea's Automobile Importers & Distributors Association (KAIDA) said that the number of imported cars sold for 2007 was tallied at the record high of 53,390 vehicles, which represents 31.7 per cent increase from one year earlier.

"After driving Hyundai Sonata cars for 10 years, I wanted to switch to something new. Many of my friends are driving European cars and prices are no longer beyond our means. So I was thinking why not?" said Lee Hyun Joo, 43, who drove her new Audi to the shopping mall.