October 19th, 2009
08:48 AM GMT
SEOUL, South Korea - There are a few reasons why Kim Han-Chal calls his supercar the “Tiger.”
The first is apparent when you get behind the wheel of the Spirra. Zero to 100 kilometers per hour (0-62 mph) in 3.8 seconds with 500 horsepower, your throat hits the back of your neck as the gas pedal hits the floor. The Spirra is the definition of supercar: fast, sporty, sleep, and a six-figure U.S.-dollar price tag.
But the more important reason Kim, the creator of the car, calls it the “Tiger,” is that the animal is a powerful symbol of Korea. That’s apropos for Korea’s first venture into the supercar market, made with all Korean parts, built with Korean hands. “We were the only country that didn't have a supercar,” Kim says. Neighbor Japan has a Toyota and Honda supercar, and Germany and Italy has Porsche and Lamborghini.
The car enthusiast, who pledges if you check carefully he has gas running in his veins, dreamed of building a car on his home soil. He believed in his countrymen’s ability to produce a high-end car, not just the reliable, eco-friendly Hyundai or Kia.
For 10 years, he tinkered with designs and poured his money into concept car after concept car. But it wasn't until he partnered with Oullim motors, backed by the wealth of a high tech company, that he began production. Now Europe is his first major customer. A dealer in the Netherlands purchased 145 orders of his handmade cars over the next three years, marking the first commercial entrée of his supercar into the global market.
CLSA auto analyst Christopher J. Richter says supercars are often losing business ventures and are built to send a message. “These guys, I think the message they want say is 'Hey, we can make a super car too, high performance car too, and we can do it with all Korean components. It stirs the pot a little bit and shows that auto-making is not just about Germany or Japan, but Korean auto-makers have a valuable contribution to make.”
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