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Fred Beans visits Kia Motors in Seoul

Fred Beans traveled to Korea this fall to take a look at design, engineering and manufacturing practices at the Kia Motors division of Hyundai Motors Ltd. in Seoul, South Korea. He made the September trip at the invitation of Kia Motors’ corporate staff, accompanied by Todd Buch of McCafferty Auto Group, his business partner, and by Chris Chandor, his close friend and partner in real estate ventures.

Fred Beans in Seoul showroom

A key goal of the visit was to learn about Kia’s manufacturing and customer service philosophies, now that Beans has established a Kia franchise in Limerick. The organization has also operated a Hyundai dealership in Doylestown since 1994.

Hyundai, Kia’s parent company, has made good on its promise to greatly improve its reputation and to gain market share. In just a few years, it has demonstrated an almost meteoric rise from low-end carmaker to winner of the 2009 North American Car of the Year for the Genesis. Hyundai has also managed to thrive during the economic downturn. Kia, Hyundai’s lower-priced, more economical offering, is quickly gaining a following among consumers for its value, style and reliability.

Beans was struck by every aspect of his travel experience, from his “spectacular” flight on Korean Air, to the beautiful city of Seoul, to the “boutique” dealerships open far into the night selling many models not available in the U.S.

At the Kia factory

“We were kept very busy,” he says, “including two days at Kia’s design and engineering centers and a visit to a manufacturing facility.

“We also drove some new Kias on a test track and learned about future product lines and advertising plans at corporate headquarters. I was very impressed with the factory–where they build 600,000 cars a year–and with the quality of the vehicles and what the company is doing to continuously upgrade its Hyundai and Kia products.

“The Koreans are a very industrious people, proud of their culture and their history. I would like to go back, this time for a chance to see more of the country.”