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Seoul Motor Show showcases the future of sustainable mobility

Semi-annual car extravaganza, though curtailed under COVID, shows heated race for green tech

Kia executives pose in front of the all-new Kia Niro. (Kia)

South Korea’s biannual auto show kicked off on Thursday with global automakers showcasing sustainable, smart and sophisticated mobility to attract local drivers with future technologies designed to revitalize the pandemic-hit auto industry.

The Seoul Mobility Show offers its stage for a world premiere, five Asian premieres and 14 Korean premieres from six different local and foreign brands. Around 100 automakers and mobility companies from six different countries have joined the show, which is taking place simultaneously in Seoul and Ilsan, Gyeonggi Province, for its 10-day run.

This year’s car extravaganza is filled with green automobiles such as all-electric and hydrogen-powered vehicles that reflect the growing demand for new, sustainable technologies to replace conventional fossil-fuel cars. Among the first 20 staged, 13 were either electric vehicles or hybrid vehicles.

For the show, local automaker Kia unveiled the all-new Niro as a world premiere. Niro’s makeover comes five years after the car was launched as Kia’s first hybrid sport utility vehicle.

Through this new version, Kia plans to become the supplier of sustainable mobility.

“As a sustainable mobility provider, we will contribute to the development of our customers, the community and the global society,” said Song Ho-sung, head of Kia’s global operations division.

The all-new Niro was designed to be practical, safe and smart, the automaker said.

The two-tone body is simple but at the same time detailed and sophisticated with the combination of glossy and matte materials.

Both EV and HEV models of the Niro were showcased at the event.

The German car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz also presented five new 100% electric vehicles: the EQE, the Mercedes-AMG EQS 53 4MATIC+, the Concept EQG, the EQS and the EQB.

Speaking at a press briefing, Mercedes-Benz Korea President Thomas Klein said they were shifting from prioritizing manufacturing new models of electric vehicles to manufacturing electric vehicles only.

“Focusing solely on electric vehicles is the only way to build a prosperous future for sustainable mobility and for our business,” he said.

By 2025, the German automaker will offer its customers electric vehicle alternatives across all of their ranges.

Their AMG EQS 53 4MATIC+ which premiered in Asia showed an attempt to spice up their EV with dazzling features, like the ability to sprint from zero to 100 km/h in 3.8 seconds.

BMW Group Korea, which has the Mini brand under its wing, exhibited its Mini Strip concept model for the first time in Asia, along with its iX, i4, X3, iX3 and Mini Electric all-electric vehicles.

With Mini Strip, the automaker plans to rebrand its image as an enduring brand that fits diverse lifestyles. They collaborated with the famous British designer Paul Smith when designing the car.

BMW said first and foremost that it hopes customers will have a fun driving experience with their all-electric vehicles.

“The BMW Group is presenting a new direction for next-generation mobility under the theme of future mobility. It will be a new starting point to assess the future mobility market across various models and identify alternatives to rapidly changing lifestyles,” said Hang Sang-yun, CEO of BMW Group Korea.

Their CE04 all-electric motorcycle was also on display at the event.

Lee Ho-geun, professor of automotive engineering at Daeduk University, said automotive brands are all gearing up to transition to a carbon-neutral future.

“Auto experts say the auto industry’s transition to the all-electric vehicle market is inevitable as governments implement environmental measures. Moreover, just like the urea shortage situation in Korea du Sud showed a few weeks ago, more and more automakers know that electric is the solution to fuel addiction,” Lee said.

This year’s event was held on a much smaller scale than previous shows, with fewer automakers attending due to the pandemic.

The Seoul Mobility Expo opens its doors to the public on Friday.

By Hong Yoo ([email protected])

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