For many, the name Samsung is not synonymous with car making but the fact of the matter is that the South Koreans over at Samsung have been involved in the motoring business for a while now. Despite the fact they are not as well known as other Korean car brands (Kia, Hyunday and SsangYong), Samsung Motors has managed to make a name for itself.
The brand was founded in 1994 but it wouldn't be until 1998 that the first car rolled out of the factory door. By that time, South Korea was deep in an economic crisis that took over the entire Asian continent. In order to keep the company alive, Samsung was forced to seek a partner, so in 1998 it began negotiations with French car maker Renault. The take-over was finalized in 2000, when Renault bought 70% of the company stock for the sum of $512 million.
Kun Hee Lee, the founder of the Samsung empire decided to enter his company in the car-making business because he thought he would supply it with the help of his other subsidiaries, Samsung Electrics and Samsung Electronics. Not a bad idea on paper, but as soon as the crisis hit, he was forced to sell.
At that time, several Korean car companies seemed interested in the deal, including Daewoo and Hyundai, but it was Renault who won in the end, particularly because of the close tie between Samsung and Nissan, of which Renault was now a major stockholder. Nissan's partnership with Samsung included engines and technical support as well as valuable expertise.
This means that today, most of the models that have appeared under the Samsung brand name are based on existing Nissan models. For example, the SM3 is based on Nissan Bluebird, the SM5 on the Nissan Cefiro and Nissan Maxima and the SM7 on the Nissan Teana.
What Renault has made had little influence on the brand in general and analysts think that Samsung acts only as a way for the French to break onto the Asian car market. Regardless of the role it plays right now in car production, Renault will continue to keep the Samsung brand name until 2020 due to a license agreement.