Home Featured List Of Korean Car Makers 2021 | Top Korean Car Brands, Companies, And Manufacturers

List Of Korean Car Makers 2021 | Top Korean Car Brands, Companies, And Manufacturers

by song-i
list of korean car makers

South Korea’s automobile industry is taking the world by storm. So here’s a list of Korean car makers who’ve been pushing the envelope for decades now.

When you think of Korea, you probably think of K-pop groups, thrilling zombie movies, Parasite’s recent Oscar win,  and probably Korean skincare.

But do you know South Korea has a fast-growing and technologically advanced automobile industry?

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South Korea’s automobile sector forms at least 10 percent of its GDP says a report in 2017. 

The same report also concluded that the automotive industry is the sixth-largest in the world when it comes to production and the fifth-largest in terms of exports. Cool right?

Yes, North Korea has an automobile industry too. But their production and exports are fewer for obvious reasons. 

The country also focuses more on creating army, industrial, and construction vehicles, unlike South Korean car makers manufacture vehicles for personal transport. 

Korean Car Makers 2021

Here’s a list of Korean car makers that have made a mark on not just the local automotive industry but also have a presence worldwide.

Kia Motors 

Years Active: 1944 – Present

Founder: Hyundai Group

Current Status: Active

Headquarters: Seoul, South Korea

Popular Car Models: KIA K131, Picanto, Ceed, Cerato, Forte

list of korean car makers

Kia Motors is the second biggest Korean car makers out there. They sell their products worldwide with the exception of Japan.

This company is actually a subsidiary of Hyundai, its sister corporation that owns  33.88% of its shares.

This Korean car manufacturer boasts of having about 4 manufacturing plants in over five countries. It also employs over 65,000 employees worldwide.

While the company was founded in 1944, it limited itself to producing bicycle parts until 1974 when Kia Motors moved on to making passenger cars.

Unfortunately, this Korean carmaker had to file for bankruptcy in 1994 which is when they made a deal with Hyundai by exchanging ownership of the firm. 

Its affordable and efficient cars cater to customers of all sorts. You’ll see both smaller size cars, sedans, and even luxury cars in its catalog.

Some of its popular models include the Picanto, Picanto LPG, Rio 4-door, Rio 5-door, Cerato/Forte, Cerato/ Forte 5-door, Cerato KOUP, Ceed, Ceed GT, and Ceed Sportswagon. 

It’s also known for creating commercials vehicles such as K2500, K2700, K3000S, and K4000G. 

Renault Samsung Motors

Years Active: 1954 – Present

Founder: Renault

Current Status: Active

Headquarters: Seoul, South Korea

Popular Car Models: Renault SM5, Nissan Rogue, SM7, and QM6

korean car brands

You’ve obviously heard of Samsung and consider them a tech brand. That is true for sure but did you know that they started off as Samsung Motors in 1994?

Today Renault has a greater stake in the company with 80.1% while Samsung owns the rest. 

It’s known in South Korea for its excellent customer service. In fact, the brand was voted the best in customer satisfaction in the sales are for 15 consecutive years.

Renault Samsung follows the philosophy of “Never comprise on quality” and hence gives its customers cars with the best, cutting-edge technology.

Lately, this Korean car brand has focused specifically on auto exports. They export vehicles under the brand name of Nissan or Renault.

If you live in the US or Canada, you might recognize a familiar name, the Nissan Rouge. Yes, this family-friendly car is of South Korean origin.


Years Active: 1967 – Present

Founder: Chung Ju-yung

Current Status: Active

Headquarters:  Seoul, South Korea

Popular Car Models: Elantra, Veloster, Tucson, Santa Fe

korean made cars list

Arguably the most popular Korean car makers out there, Hyundai is the 11th largest car manufacturer in the world.

Hyundai has subsidiaries in 193 countries and employs more than 80K employees worldwide.

This company was first established in 1947 as Hyundai Engineering and Construction Company. 

There’s an interesting thing about the logo of the company. The symbol shows two people (one to represent the company and one to represent the customer) engaged in a handshake. 

This shows that the company wants to build a reputation of trustworthiness and reliability.

Hyundai owns two subsidiaries in South Korea – Kia Motors and Genesis Motors. 


Years Active: 1967 – Present

Founder: Kim Woo-jung

Current Status: Defunct

Headquarters: Seoul, South Korea

Popular Car Models: Daewoo Lacetti, Damas/Labo, Chevrolet Malibu

korean luxury car brands

Daweoo was first established in 1937 as National Motors. It was later renamed Daewoo Motors in the year 1983.

This Korean car maker has a turbulent history. The name of the firm went from Saenara Motors to 1962 to Shinjin Motors in 1965, before it’s founder Kim Woo Jung finally settled on the most famous Daewoo in 1982.

It ran into some financial problems in 1999, and a short while later it was acquired by the car manufacturer GM motors.

GM Motors continued to use the brand name Daewoo up until 2011. After that, the name Daewoo was completely removed from the company’s products. 

In 2002, the offshoot of Daewoo called Daewoo Commercial Vehicle Company was sold to Tata Motors, the largest car manufacturer in India. 

This branch, as the name suggests, was focused on manufacturing commercial-grade vehicles.

Ssang Yong

Years Active: 1994 – Present

Founder: Mahindra & Mahindra Limited

Current Status: Active

Headquarters: Busan, South Korea

Popular Car Models: Kyron, Korando, Rexton, Actyon

korean car brands in usa

Ssang Yong was once the fourth-largest car manufacturer in South Korea. In 2011, a majority of the share was acquired by the Indian company Mahindra and Mahindra. 

This firm now owns about 74.65% stake in Ssang Yong. The company started out as Hadonghwan Motor Company which used to build jeeps and other military vehicles for the US army in 1964.

Its name was changed after the SsangYong Business Group took over it in 1986. 

The chief headquarters of Ssang Yong is located in Pyeongtaek, South Korea. Its R&D center and chief manufacturing plant are also located in the same place. 

Proto Motors

Years Active: 1997 – Present

Founder: –

Current Status: Defunct

Headquarters: South Korea

Popular Car Models: RT-X, Spira

Proto Motors is technically not a car manufacturer, not in the traditional sense at least.

This company is focused on building buses, electric cars, and sports cars by engaging in strategic partnerships with GM Motors, Hyundai, and other popular Korean car manufacturers. 

GM Korea

Years Active: 2002-Present

Founder: General Motors Investment Pty Ltd.

Current Status: Active

Headquarters: Bupyeong, Incheon, South Korea

Popular Car Models: Buick Encore GX, Buick Encore/Opel Mokka

south korean automobile industry statistics

GM Korea is the third-largest automobile manufacturer in South Korea. Technically, it’s not a Korean brand as it wasn’t founded by Koreans.

The company is a subsidiary of the American firm General Motors. As I’ve discussed before, it started off by acquiring Daewoo and eventually led to the formation of GM Korea.

FAQs about Korean Car Makers and Brands

list of korean car brands

Which is the best Korean car brand?

When we look at several aspects of the Korean automotive industry and consider things like popularity, sales, growth, international presence, etc. we can safely say that Hyundai is the best Korean car brand out there.

Amongst Korean car makers, Hyundai enjoys celebrity status thanks to its operating the world’s largest integrated automobile manufacturing facility. 

This facility is located in Ulsan, South Korea, and produces almost 1.6 million units.

How many Korean car makers are there?

There are five top Korean car makers currently operating in the South Korean market. These Korean automobile manufacturers are:

  • Hyundai Motors
  • Kia Motors
  • GM Korea
  • Renault Samsung
  • SsangYong Motors

What is the cheapest car in South Korea?

Korean car makers are known for manufacturing reliable, efficient cars which generally have affordable prices.

Some of the cheapest cars in South Korea include the 2017 Kia Morning which is a city car with a price tag of $8,475.

Another affordable car by Korean car makers is the Hyundai Accent which costs just  $10,242.

Are Korean cars good and reliable?

There have been several misconceptions about Korean cars as they weren’t as popular or good when they first started out.

However, that is not true today. The success of Hyundai just proves that Korean cars are just as good as their Japanese, European, and American counterparts.

A lot of Korean car brands rank in the top three of surveys and lists about safety, interiors, luxury, and reliability.

They have several features like:

Luxury features Navigation Camera, Surround Sound System, Backup Camera, Touchscreen Display, and more.

Safety features: Lane Departure Warning, Smart Cruise Control, Rear Cross Traffic Alert, Forward Collision-Avoidance Assist, and more.


Is Mazda Korean or Japanese?

The car brand Mazda, owned by the Mazda Motor Corporation was founded in Hiroshima in Japan in 1920.

So no, Mazda is a Japanese car brand. They are not Korean car makers. 

Is Nissan Korean or Japanese?

Nissan Motor Corporation is a Japanese car manufacturer that is headquartered in Nishi-ku, Yokohama, Japan. 

Nissan is a Japanese car brand and not a Korean car maker. 

Whether it’s a stylish SUV, a minivan for the family, or a sleek sportscar for the fashionable people, Korean car makers have got a large catalog.  

Like in other areas, the automobile industry also benefits from South Korea’s technological advancements.  

Owning a car is a status symbol for South Koreans who still grapple with class structures. So these Korean car makers have a large target market to sell their products.

A lot of these Korean car brands have also managed to go international. 

So when you go car shopping or perhaps take your existing vehicle out for a drive, check if you see the familiar names mentioned above.

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List of Korean Male Actors

List of Korean Actresses

List of Korean Girl Groups

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