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S. Korea’s first modern automotive car plant to shut down after 60 years

GM Korea to relocate workers, focus on more popular compact SUVs, EVs

Saenara, a short-lived automotive maker, built the nation's first modern car plant in 1962 to produce Nissan's Bluebird sedan. (Yonhap)
Saenara, a short-lived automotive maker, built the nation's first modern car plant in 1962 to produce Nissan's Bluebird sedan. (Yonhap)

GM Korea, the Korean unit of the US auto giant General Motors, said Tuesday it is shutting down its No. 2 Bupyeong plant in Incheon on Saturday as part of its strategic shift toward more popular models, putting an end to the decades-old history of the nation’s first modern automotive factory.

The plant used to produce the carmaker’s Trax SUV and Malibu sedan. But with sales of the models being discontinued this month, the carmaker has decided to stop the operation of the outdated plant and put resources into other production plants.

The decision comes after the carmaker decided to ditch the Spark compact in September.

Now the carmaker plans to focus on the compact SUV Trailblazer, the only locally-developed model, while producing five imported models, including the Colorado pickup.

The company said some 1,200 employees working at the No. 2 Bupyeong plant will be relocated to other plants – the No. 1 Bupyeong plant and the Changwon plant – both recently refurbished to be equipped with cutting-edge facilities worth 1.1 trillion won.

The carmaker stressed that building more profitable SUVs will lead to the brand’s overall performance, citing sluggish sales of smaller compact or sedan cars recently.

Celebrating its 20-year anniversary last month, GM Korea announced a vision to produce 280,000 units of compact SUV models with its new assembly line set up at the Changwon plant, while the No. 1 Bupyeong plant will focus on exporting the best-selling Trailblazer.

The carmaker added it would release an additional 10 EV models by 2025 in phases, without elaborating further.

GM Korea's Bupyeong plant in Incheon. (GM Korea)
GM Korea's Bupyeong plant in Incheon. (GM Korea)

The No.2 Bupyeong plant was originally used to produce military vehicles for the Japanese army during the Japanese colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula (1910-1945). In 1962, Saenara, a short-lived local automotive maker, purchased the plant to build the country’s first modern manufacturing line to produce Nissan’s Bluebird sedan. Three years later, Saenara was acquired by Shinjin Motors, which joined hands with Toyota to produce commercial cars and passenger models.

After setting up GM Korea through joint investment with General Motors, Shinjin Motors was renamed to Saehan Motors, which later became Daewoo Motors after Daewoo Group purchased shares in Saehan in 1978.

In 2002, General Motors launched GM Daewoo after Daewoo Group went bankrupt and sold its automotive business to the carmaker.

Since 2011, the name "Daewoo" was removed to become GM Korea, and the Daewoo logo was replaced by the Chevrolet marque.



By Kim Da-sol (ddd@heraldcorp.com)
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