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Wednesday, 14 May 2014

Korean 6th Gear, Part I: General Motors Korea

GM Korea Bupyeong Plant in Incheon Bupyeong-gu
GM Korea Company (Korean: 한국지엠주식회사/Hankook GM Jusik-hoesa) is South Korea's second largest automobile manufacturer and a subsidiary of the General Motors Company. GM Korea's roots go back to the former Daewoo which was split from its parent company, Daewoo Group, in 2001. It has five manufacturing facilities in South Korea as well as a vehicle assembly facility in Vietnam. In addition, GM Korea provides region and brand-specific vehicle assembly kits for assembly by GM affiliates in China, the United States, Australia, Germany, India, and Brazil. In 2008, GM Korea built more than 1.9 million vehicles, including CKD products. It now produces vehicles and kits for Chevrolet, Holden, Opel/Vauxhall and Buick that are offered in more than 150 markets on six continents.

On January 20, 2011, General Motors announced that GM Daewoo would be renamed GM Korea "to reflect [Daewoo's] heightened status in [the] global operations of GM," effective March 2011. Most of the former Daewoo products were rechristened as Chevrolets. GM´s luxury division Cadillac is also available in South Korea.

GM Korea Boryeong Plant in Boryeong City, Southern Chungcheong Province
Specialized in Precision and Transmisson
GM Korea's roots go back to the remnants of the Korean War and Shinjin Motors, which launched its business by rebuilding scrapped US military vehicles. Shinjin Motor was first established as National Motor in 1937 in Incheon Bupyeong-gu, South Korea. After changing its name to Saenara Motor in 1962, Saenara Motor was bought by Shinjin Industrial in 1965, which changed its name to Shinjin Motor after establishing a partnership with Toyota. After Toyota's withdrawal in 1972, Shinjin Motor changed its name to GM Korea (GMK) in 1972 with General Motors purchasing a 50% stake in the company from Toyota in 1972; however GMK was renamed again in 1976 to Saehan Motors. Korean Development Bank (KDB), the company's creditor, took over management in 1976 as the company found itself unable to cope with competition from Hyundai and Kia. After the Daewoo Group gained control in 1982, the name was changed once more to Daewoo Motor. In the early 1990s the company started to expand heavily throughout the world. Until 1996 all Daewoo cars were based on GM-designed models. After the Asian financial crisis reached South Korea in 1997, Daewoo took over the troubled SUV manufacturer SsangYong in 1998, but ran into financial trouble and was forced to sell the company off in 2001 to GM affiliate SAIC.

GM Korea Gunsan Plant in Gunsan City, Northern Jeolla Province
In 2001, General Motors bought most of Daewoo Motor's assets to form GM Daewoo. The new company started operations on October 17, 2002, with GM and its partners Suzuki and SAIC holding a stake of 66.7% with investments of US$400 million. The GM holding was formally purchased by GM Holden Ltd which holds a seat on the board and is legally responsible for GM Daewoo. The remaining equity stake of 33.3% was held by Korea Development Bank and several other Korean creditors with investments of US$197 million. The deal did not include 15 plants, including Daewoo's oldest plant in Bupyeong-gu which is now operated under the name Incheon Motor Company as a supplier to GM Daewoo. In 2004, Tata Motors purchased Daewoo Truck from GM. In February 2005, GM invested US$49 million to raise its share in the company to 48.2%. In 2010, General Motors owned 82.9%, SAIC 9.9%, and the Daewoo Motor Creditors Committee the remaining 7.2%.

GM Korea has design, engineering, research & development facilities that are involved in development for various GM products, above all small-size cars. On November 25, 2003, the design center was relocated to the new two-story building at the Bupyeong-gu headquarters. The first car to be produced under the GM Daewoo nameplate was the 2002 Daewoo Lacetti, replacing the Nubira. This car was developed in South Korea under the Daewoo Motor era, but it gradually became a GM world car, sold under many different marques all around the globe. After a few years without any new cars to present, in 2005, GM Daewoo introduced the Holden-based Statesman luxury car replacing the discontinued Daewoo Chairman. The third generation of Matiz was introduced, refreshed by the GM Daewoo design team, and an evolution of the four-door Kalos appeared: the Gentra.

In early 2006, GM Daewoo presented Tosca, the replacement of the Magnus. GM Daewoo's official press releases says that Tosca is an acronym for "Tomorrow Standard Car". The end of the same year, GM Daewoo introduced the Winstorm, its first proper sport utility vehicle (SUV), which was, as the Lacetti, sold worldwide under different marques and names including Opel, Chevrolet, GMC and Holden, and previously Saturn before the demise of that brand in 2010. It featured a common rail Diesel engine for the first time in a Daewoo vehicle, in addition to regular four and six cylinder gasoline engines. The diesel engine design is licensed from the Italian engine maker VM Motori.

2007 saw the introduction of the Lacetti and Kalos hatchback facelift's wagon version, becoming the Gentra X. For 2008, GM Daewoo introduced the first Korean-branded roadster: the G2X sports car, a badge-engineered Pontiac Solstice/Saturn Sky which was based on the GM Kappa platform, and started to sell the Opel Antara under the name of Winstorm MaXX. The Statesman flagship was also replaced by the new Veritas which is now based on the Holden Caprice V.

Late 2008 and early 2009 were a major period for GM Daewoo with the introduction of the all-new Lacetti Premiere, which is based on the Chevrolet Cruze, a very important compact car for GM divisions worldwide. The newly rechristened third generation of the Matiz was added to the range in 2009 as the Chevrolet Spark.

As of the end of 2011, GM Korea also manufactures the Chevrolet models Malibu and Orlando, as well as the new standalone brand Alpheon.

GM Korea Changwon Plant in Changwon Seongsan-gu, Southern Gyeongsang Province

Current Lineup:
  • Alpheon - Buick LaCrosse (Executive car; 4-door sedan) - made in Incheon Bupyeong-gu
  • Chevrolet Aveo/Sonic (Supermini; 5-door hatchback, 4-door sedan) - made in Incheon Bupyeong-gu
  • Chevrolet Captiva (Mid-size SUV; 5-door wagon) - made in Incheon Bupyeong-gu
  • Chevrolet Camaro (Muscle car; 2-door coupé) - directly imported from Canada
  • Chevrolet Corvette (Sports car; 2-door coupé) - directly imported from the US
  • Chevrolet Cruze/Daewoo Lacetti Premiere (Compact car; 4-door sedan, 5-door hatchback and station wagon) - made in Gunsan
  • Chevrolet Malibu (Mid-size car; 4-door sedan) - made in Incheon Bupyeong-gu
  • Chevrolet Orlando (Compact MPV; 5-door wagon) - made in Gunsan
  • Chevrolet Spark (City car; 5-door hatchback) - made in Changwon Seongsan-gu
  • Chevrolet Trax/Opel Mokka (Subcompact SUV; 5-door wagon) - made in Incheon Bupyeong-gu