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GM Korea launches Chevrolet Traverse for growing large-SUV market

CEO expresses concern over union’s sit-in protest plan, vows to expand SUV lineup

SOKCHO, Gangwon Province -- Targeting a young market that is led by Hyundai’s first large sport utility vehicle the Palisade, GM Korea on Wednesday launched the Chevrolet Traverse, highlighting its “aggressive” price strategy, quality features and American heritage.

Introducing the vehicle as a “super SUV,” the carmaker said the Traverse will expand the choice of Korean customers wanting to experience premium outdoor activities with driving convenience. The three-row SUV has a wheelbase longer than 3 meters, offering the largest passenger space here as well as 651 liters of cargo space and 850 millimeters of leg room for the third-row passenger seats.

GM Korea CEO Kaher Kazem speaks at a media session held for the launch of the Traverse in Sokcho, Gangwon Province, Wednesday. (GM Korea)
GM Korea CEO Kaher Kazem speaks at a media session held for the launch of the Traverse in Sokcho, Gangwon Province, Wednesday. (GM Korea)

Powered by a 3.6-liter V6 engine, the Traverse has a nine-speed automatic transmission for smooth shifting, the company said.

To satisfy domestic customers, the company has adopted 21-inch wheels and Korean language navigation program as standard features.

Despite different configurations adopted for the Traverse launched here, it is 5 million won ($4,130) cheaper than the same model sold in the US, the company said. GM Korea has hired actor Jung woo-sung to endorse the Traverse to promote its sales.

“I am confident that the Traverse will go long way in expanding GM Korea’s product portfolio. It will also offer Korean consumers the authentic American lifestyle that they have never experienced before,” said GM Korea CEO Kaher Kazem.

“I also believe that the Traverse and Chevrolet will rewrite the history of large imported SUVs in the Korean market.”

The Traverse has various high-tech safety features, including seven air bags, forward collision alert, front pedestrian braking and land keep assistance with land departure warning. It also has the standard rear-vision camera to provide a view of the scene directly behind the vehicle on its infotainment screen, the company said in a statement. The price of the Traverse ranges from 45.2 million won to 55.22 million won.

When asked about reports that GM’s head office might readjust its shipments to Korea if the unionized workers at its local plants continue to threaten to stage a sit-in protest, Kazem declined to comment, citing the confidentiality of the issue. However, he said he feels it is “unfortunate” to see the union resorting to such actions, due to the conflict they have failed to send the right message to stakeholders who have been making investments for GM Korea’s survival in Korea. The union has reportedly demanded a wage revision proposal within this week, threatening a disruption of operations.

The Traverse is the second SUV imported to Korea, after the midsized SUV Equinox, and the sixth of 15 models that the company pledged to launch in Korea under its five-year self-rescue plan.

The company will have 70 percent of its model lineup as SUVs, and expand the portion of imported vehicles to over 60 percent, the CEO said.

While declining to comment on its sales target, the company has reportedly secured the first batch of 3,000 Traverse vehicles for the Korean market. Global sales of the vehicle grew nearly 20 percent last year, according to the company.

By Cho Chung-un (