By Lee Sam-sun with Ms. Kim Jung-mi
Chief Executive Officer Signora Dominique of Renault Samsung Motors (RSM) in Korea probably owes a citation to some of his hard-working employees at the company’s maintenance shops, namely the people at the RSM workshop in Seongdong-gu, Seoul.
The maintenance people there are extremely courteous to the clients and try to take care of the Renault-Samsung motor vehicles as if they would their own.
You bring your RSM car to the service shop, and, again, they would attend to your problem as they would to their own. They check everything although you tell them you have problem with a certain part of the car.
“Well, we do this in our voluntary service to make sure our cars are making our customers happy,” says Lee Seung-man, a maintenance team leader at the RSM maintenance shop in Seongdong-gu, Seoul.
Working with Maintenanceman Seo Yeong-jong, Lee turned the all-but ten-year-old sedan into a “brand new car” as far as the degree of satisfaction on the part of the car owner was concerned.
The maintenance people, Lee and Seo, worked on the car only for one day, and they did wonders to the vehicle.
“Well, it looks like a new car now, and I can feel it from the quiet, pleasing engine sound,” says the car owner-operator.
So, how did the Renault-Samsung Motors start in Korea?
The French-Korean automobile company is headquartered in Busan, Korea’s second largest city on the southeastern tip of the Korean peninsula, with its additional facilities in Seoul (administration), Giheung (research and development) and Daegu (vehicle testing).
According to Wikipedia, RSM was first established as Samsung Motors in 1994 by the Samsung Business Group, Korea’s top jaebeol business conglomerate, with technical assistance from Nissan. The company started selling cars in 1998, just before the Republic of Korea (south) was hit by the Asian financial crisis. In September 2000, it became a subsidiary of Renault, a French motor company, and adopted its present name, although Samsung maintained a minority ownership. RSM markets a wide range of cars, including electric models and crossovers.
In the early 1990s, Chairman Lee Kun-hee of the Samsung Business Group (now in a state of coma for the past four and half years but still retaining the chairmanship of Korea’s top business group) recognized the automotive industry as the culmination of several others.
(Chairman Lee fell due to acute myocardial infarction at his residence in Itaewon, Seoul, on May 10, 2014, and was immediately evacuated to the nearby Soonchunhyang Hospital where he underwent emergency cardiopulmonary resuscitation and then was hospitalized at the Seoul Samsung Hospital the following morning which was considered to be the best medical facility in Korea. Lee stays in a state of sub-consciousness since then.)
For the Samsung Group, this would allow to leverage resources and technologies from the entire group including Samsung Electrics and Samsung Electronics. Samsung initially tried to take control of Kia, but competition from other bidders and legal restrictions made it drop the idea. Kia was eventually purchased by Hyundai.
Lee decided to create a new carmaker, Samsung Motors (also known as SMI) and a truck manufacturer, Samsung Commercial Vehicles Co., Ltd., the latter through Samsung Heavy Industries with Nissan Diesel's support. SMI was established in 1994 (incorporated in 1995) and Daegu-based Samsung Commercial Vehicles in 1996.
Shortly after SMI started its operations, the Asian financial crisis hit. Samsung divested itself of SMI as well as other non-core subsidiaries. SMI was put up for sale, with Daewoo Motors being one of the first interested companies, but, as the crisis deepened, Daewoo Motors itself was bought by GM.
Hyundai Motors was also considered as a possible buyer, but corporate politics and strife between the Samsung Group and the Hyundai Group made this impossible.
Negotiations with Renault started in December 1998, and in September 2000 the French automaker bought a 70% stake for US$560 million. Samsung Commercial Vehicles was kept by Samsung, but finally it filed for bankruptcy at the end of 2000.
After the 2000 acquisition, Renault renamed Samsung Motors as Renault Samsung Motors. That year, the company's sales began to improve. Journalists attribute this to the success of the first car manufactured at Busan in taxi fleets (the SM5), which led to increased confidence of the model within the rest of their customer base.
During the following years, the company introduced a new vehicle range, including the SM3 in 2002, the SM7 in 2004 and the crossover QM5 in 2007. Over time, RSM changed its products from a Nissan-based architecture to a Renault-based one.
As part of the Renault group, Renault Samsung basically became an export-oriented manufacturer. Despite not being exported under their own brand, Renault Samsung-manufactured vehicles have over the time been rebadged as Renault or Nissan, and sold in markets such as Europe (QM5 and SM5), Russia, Ukraine, Mexico, Egypt, Central and South America, the Middle East (SM3 and SM5), China (SM7), Australia (QM5), or the United States and Canada (the Rogue).
In 2005, Renault increased its stake by acquiring an additional 10% share from the company's creditors. On 26 June 2009, Renault and Samsung agreed to renew the right of the former to use the "Samsung" trade mark on its products until 2020.
In 2016, Renault Samsung introduced the SM6, a new mid-size model which is a Talisman with some minor changes for the South Korean market, and the crossover QM6. Last year, the company introduced the Clio and the Master.
In November 2018, the company opened a vehicle testing centre in Daegu for vehicles aimed at the Asia-Pacific market, in partnership with the city government and Korea Intelligent Automobile Parts Promotion. The facility can test electric, autonomous and connected vehicles.
The advertising slogan of Renault Samsung Motors is “Discover the Difference” and was introduced in 2009. According to the company public relations, it refers to the distinct quality of its products.
The RMS cars won the first place in three years in a row. The company won the top place in the ‘Customer Satisfaction Degree’ on Jan. 15, 2019 as a result of a survey conducted by Consumer Insight. In appreciation of this, SRM presented a QM6 gasoline model to the first-place winner.
The 48-year-old woman winner, Ms. Kim Su-eun, said: “I bought an SM7 and then SM3 and also my son uses QM3. I would say that RSM shops are everywhere easy of access and I use them as I like their design.”
Living in Giheung, Gyeonggi Province, Ms. Kim bought an SM3 in May 2010, and has covered 120,000 kilometers receiving maintenance checkup at the RSM service centers on a regular basis.