Foreign carmakers in Korea posted the prices of car parts on their websites on Saturday following an order from the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transportation.
The move follows a campaign alleging that parts and repairs are too expensive compared with domestic carmakers.
Critics say foreign carmakers are not exactly complying wholeheartedly, often just listing the names of parts in English and failing to provide a proper search function. And like many manufacturers of engineered products, they refuse to explain or illustrate parts whose names mean nothing to laymen.
A look at the websites of 19 foreign carmakers here shows that 16 provide only the English names, and searches can be done only in English.
Toyota, Lexus and Volvo are the only ones that listed the names in Korean as well, but none of them explain what a part is used for.
A search on Volkswagen's website for the popular Golf model produced 1,559 parts and prices. But the information contained industry terms such as "grommet" or "rep.set" which are incomprehensible to most consumers.
A search on BMW's website for brake levers for the Mini subcompact yielded six components, but their prices ranged from W37,000 to W160,000 (US$1=W1,030). There is no explanation of the price difference.
In other words, manufacturers seem to have complied with the letter of the law while remaining as opaque as possible. It is still difficult for consumers to determine the price of the parts they need and compare them with other brands without the help of experts. Some carmakers did not even bother to put a search function on their pages.
Porsche Korea's website requires consumers to download the entire components list and do a manual search, while the parts list for the Cayenne SUV is 66 pages long and lists 3,252 parts.
Jaguar/Landrover only displays the prices of 10 to 20 components. Bentley and Rolls-Royce said they are still not ready to unveil the prices.
In contrast, Hyundai Mobis, the parts maker for Hyundai and Kia, started listing the prices of parts 10 years ago, and the website allows consumers to search parts and identify where they fit.
Auto industry insiders say foreign carmakers are reluctant to reveal the exact prices of their parts. Sales of imported cars surpassed 150,000 units last year and are expected to top 180,000 this year, and makers are slashing prices amid intensifying competition. But parts and repair costs remain unchanged.
According to the Korea Insurance Development Institute, insurers paid an average W2.76 million to fix a damaged imported car last year, three times more than the average cost for a domestic brand. This has led to criticism that foreign brands are trying to offset losses from discounts by jacking up repair and parts prices.
But foreign carmakers are blaming the ministry for giving them just three months’ notice, which they claim was not long enough to prepare.