Gentex Technologies Korea Co. Ltd. opened in late March as a wholly owned subsidiary of the Zeeland-based corporation.
Yong-Ho (Y.H.) Lee, the former director and general manager of the Korean subsidiary of Schefenacker International, runs the new Gentex office in Seoul.
Gentex’s unit shipments of its popular automatic-dimming Night Vision Safety mirrors to a half-dozen South Korean automakers — Hyundai Corp., Kia Motors Co. and Samsung among them — grew 50 percent from 2001 to 2002
Garth Deur, executive vice president, told the Business Journal that business of that pace dictated establishing a physical presence in the Korean capital city.
Korean automotive brands are making an impact on the worldwide market, with ever-increasing quality and progressive vehicle content,” Deur said.
“We’re excited about supporting the market with expanded resources,” he added.
Gentex began shipping to South Korea for Hyundai’s mid-sized Santa Fe and Sonata models and Kia’s Optima and Sorento vehicles during the past two years.
The new South Korean office is the fifth sales and engineering facility Gentex has opened overseas.
Other sales and engineering offices are in Nagoya, Japan; Coventry, England; Montrouge, France; and Weinsberg, Germany.
Gentex also operates a light assembly and warehousing operation in Weinsberg.
Gentex, which posted 2002 sales of $395.2 million and employs more than 1,800 people at its Zeeland facilities, shipped a record 8.8 million interior and exterior NVS mirror units last year.
Fourteen percent of those units went to automakers in the Asia-Pacific rim, which is the area of the company’s smallest but most rapidly growing market.
Fifty-seven percent of mirror shipments went to North American-based automakers and 29 percent were shipped to Europe.
Enoch Jen, Gentex vice president of finance, said Gentex experienced growth rates of 15 percent to 20 percent in annual mirror shipments in recent years.
He said the company typically establishes an office in a market once sales volumes to automakers there reach a certain level.
“Generally we wait until sales are of sufficient volume and we feel we need a presence to support the customer with new product development and vehicle launches,” Jen said.
About half of the mirrors sold to South Korean automakers are for vehicles sold in South Korea, Jen said. The other half are exported to other countries, including the United States, he said.