For a long time, Korea was a largely unknown market on the Bosch map, even though the company had been represented in Korea through its commercial agent Illies & Co. since 1920.
Business in the country was modest, supplying car dealers and private automobile owners with Bosch magneto ignition systems. Bosch was not yet a big enough company to have its own branches in all the markets around the world. Moreover, at the time, Korea had no automakers of its own, and so sales experts didn’t see it as a promising market.
Any company with a presence in Hong Kong had their finger on the pulse of what was going on in China. Following the death of Mao Zedong, the powerful founder of the People’s Republic of China, his successor Deng Xiaoping came to power in 1982. He was a moderate politician and backed the economic liberalization of China.
The tiger awakes
For decades, nothing much changed. That is, up till the 1980s, when the dynamic growth of South Korean industry and its ambitious goals first kicked off – and changed everything. Now, Bosch had the opportunity to really get down to business in South Korea. In 1989, KIA Motors, a South Korean automaker that was still largely unknown internationally, announced something that business experts could scarcely take in:
It was to open a car factory with an annual production capacity of 300,000 vehicles. The targets were ambitious, but the experts at Bosch knew that industry in South Korea took its lofty ambitions very seriously.
As a potential supplier, Bosch now needed a stronger presence in the country, and so a regional office was established in 1986, followed by a dedicated regional company in 1989. Just two years later, in 1991, Bosch opened the Application Engineering Center, providing a local development site for its regional customers. In subsequent years, Bosch founded numerous joint ventures with Korean partners, most of which are now run as part of Robert Bosch Korea Ltd.
Author: Dietrich Kuhlgatz