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GM goes full throttle in race against rivals

Mike Arcamone, CEO and President of GM Korea (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)
Mike Arcamone, CEO and President of GM Korea (Ahn Hoon/The Korea Herald)

The race is on.

GM Korea, the nation’s No.3 carmaker, is out to challenge its big-time rival Hyundai Motor Co. by betting big on superior quality and designs.

“We’re going to challenge. We’re going to challenge our competition in all the segments, but in particular in areas where we have not competed before,” Mike Arcamone, CEO and President of GM Korea said in an interview with The Korea Herald. “We’re going to bring in exciting products and that’s how we’re going to disrupt the love-hate relationship (consumers have with Hyundai products).”

Since the company launched the Chevrolet brand in March, it unveiled five new cars ranging from compact car Aveo to the Cruze Hatchback; three more will come in the second half.

GM’s wide array of options will no doubt attract customers bored with the overabundance of Hyundai goods on the street, Arcamone predicted.

“We went from 6.7 percent market share (in February) to 10 percent. Somebody lost there,” he added.

GM Korea currently touts 10 percent, up from its low of 5.7 percent in March 2009. As the largest carmaker in the country, Hyundai Motor recorded a 41.9 percent market share as of July.

Predicting that car imports would grow to double digits in a “very short time,” Arcamone said Hyundai’s dominance would be hit by new competition.

The Canadian-born CEO was also convinced Korean consumers will be drawn to the colorful designs and brands that are catering to their desire “to be different.”

The Chevrolet Spark’s success was a testimony to the changing trends.

Launched last year, the Spark came in several pastel colors including “Manhattan silver,” “Sapporo white” and “Monaco pink.” Contrary to popular belief that pink is too unconventional for a car here, the pink Spark accounted for nearly half of the model’s sales.

The Chevrolet Cruze Hatchback is also part of GM’s strategy to capture the hearts of those aching to be different.

“Koreans don’t like hatchbacks? Wrong. We’re figuring out that the market wants different things,” he said. A total of 15,449 Cruze Hatchbacks were sold in the first half, making a significant contribution to the total number sold, 79,557.

“To be bold, the import of foreign brands is not taking sales away from us, but from our competitors,” Arcamone said referring to the threat posed to Hyundai.

The company officially changed its name to GM Korea from GM Daewoo after keeping it for 28 years. The three new launches to come before the end of the year are the mid-sized sedan Malibu, the sports car Chevrolet Corvette and the Alpheon eAssist with improved mileage.

By Cynthia J. Kim (