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GM Daewoo Matiz Exported to 150+ Countries

Posted December. 26, 2009 13:55,   


A Dong-A Ilbo reporter visited export vehicle yard No. 1 at GM-Daewoo Auto & Technology’s plant in Changwon, South Gyeongsang Province, Dec. 15. Hundreds of the Matiz Creative mini cars were lined up there. The vehicle with a beehive-shaped radiator grill appeared slightly different from the same vehicle model sold in Korea.

The windshield glass had labels saying "Made in Korea," as well as reading names of European cities including Bremen, Antwerp, Genova and Copenhagen.

○ Cumulative production of three million units over 18 years

“These vehicles look more colorful that those parked at the domestic supply yard over there, right?”

Kim Yeong-soo, a manager at GM-Daewoo, said, “More colorful vehicles sell better in Europe than in Korea.” The automaker started exporting the Matiz Creative to the European market last month. GM-Daewoo is in an upbeat mood, as many dealers in Europe have good opinions about the vehicle. The car will likely sell more than 10,000 units per month in Europe.

Employees in charge of shipping continued to load the vehicles from the yard onto car carriers. It took only 18 seconds for a skilled worker to load a vehicle onto the carrier. The carrier trucks loaded with eight cars sped away to Masan.

The production lines at Changwon were operating busily on that day. Since the plant could not meet the soaring demand, production workers had to work overtime in addition to two daily shifts and took only two days off weekends this month to barely meet the demand.

Foreman Kim Yeong-heon, who joined GM-Daewoo in 1990), said, “Others are complaining about the economic slump, and I feel so happy that we received a flurry of orders for the vehicle.”

The Changwon plant exceeded collective production of three million vehicles as a single factory Monday. It has attained the record in 18 years since it began production of Korea’s first mini-car “Tico” in 1991.

GM-Daewoo said, “The plant capable of making 210,000 units per year has topped cumulative vehicle production of three million in 18 years,” adding, “It means that the plant has been operating virtually at full capacity since 1998.”

The company said the figure is significant, considering that it specializes in the production of mini-cars, whose market share in Korea is marginal.

○ Banking on export of the independently developed ‘Matiz’

Staff members were full of pride. They said the plant has never ceased operation even during the 1998 Asian financial crisis as well as this year’s first half amid the global economic crisis.

One worker told The Dong-A Ilbo, “Some would say once in the past that the Changwon plant earns enough money to enable other GM-Daewoo plants to survive.”

The key to the Changwon plant’s success is independent vehicle development and export of its own vehicles. A source at the plant said, “In the early and mid-1990s, we had no work to do yet could not idle away all the time. So we once did weeding work at a nearby stream.”

It was a time when the plant was producing the Tico, a Korean version of Suzuki’s mini car Alto.

Due to an agreement that Daewoo (predecessor of GM-Daewoo) will not export the Tico to countries where Suzuki is operating, the plant had no market to export the vehicle to but Eastern Europe.

Judging it had no future unless it found an export market, the company betted its fate on development of a new vehicle model and introduced the first generation Matiz in 1998. When the company started exporting the car to Europe, company insiders doubted whether it would make a success.

The bet proved to be highly successful. GM-Daewoo plans to export the Matiz Creative, replacing the Matiz, to more than 150 countries beginning with those in Europe. GM-Daewoo is owned by U.S. auto giant GM, but GM-Daewoo led the development of the Matiz Creative.

Hwang Woo-seong, head of GM-Daewoo’s Changwon plant, said, “We have our export schedules fully booked through 2014,” adding, “We are working to expand our production capacity here.”