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Abandoned History: Daewoo Motors, GM’s Passport to International Sales (Part IV)

Abandoned History: Daewoo Motors, GM’s Passport to International Sales (Part IV)

&#13 &#13 Oct 25th, 2022 4:20 PM

We return to Abandoned History’s coverage of the twists and turns of the Daewoo story, at a time when the company’s predecessor, Shinjin, was no extra. Right after an early Seventies joint enterprise with Normal Motors observed the corporation renamed to Common Motors Korea, Shinjin bowed out of the deal following just 5 several years. In 1976 Shinjin’s ownership in the small business was offered to a point out-owned Korean bank, and General Motors Korea was renamed to Saehan Motor Organization. But that didn’t suggest GM was out of the photograph – significantly from it.

As we discovered beforehand, the automobiles GM Korea offered have been GM’s numerous international wares from Europe and Australia, flippantly rebadged for Korean market place use. The cars and trucks ended up not ideal for Korean customers and marketed improperly. At the rear of the scenes, GM did not precisely mesh effectively with Shinjin administration.

In point, it was Basic Motors who asked the Korean federal government to stage in and organize for a new organization partner in the joint undertaking. Contact was made by means of the U.S. embassy in Seoul. Shinjin was not very well off fiscally in any case, and the Korean government was generally joyful to interfere in non-public business enterprise. The new arrangement with a nationwide lender would certainly be much more fingers-off and ease the administration conflict GM knowledgeable with Shinjin.

With their new degree of command in excess of the day-to-working day functions, GM resolved to make improvements to its predicament in Korea by modifying pretty slowly but surely. Ongoing from the GMK times was the Camina, or as Australians realized it, the Holden Torana. Initially identified as the Chevrolet 1700 below GMK distribution, it was evenly revised and obtained a lesser motor in 1976 when it was rebranded to Camina. 

Right away following the identify transform, the Camina became a Saehan Camina. Its more compact 1.5-liter engine was considerably less thirsty than the Chevrolet 1700, but the motor vehicle was usually the exact same. It’s indicated the 1700 nobody preferred remained on sale along with the Camina for its ultimate three years on the market. It turned out no one preferred the Camina either, and only 992 examples had been sold in total among GMK and Saehan. 

Saehan took the chance to step even more away from the 1700’s failure by rebranding the wagon variant as the Saehan Caravan. Presumably, the larger motor was much more desirable to the extra upmarket family wagon section of the sector: Saehan managed to offer 966 Caravans in about 3 decades.  

The 1700 and Camina continued on sale as a result of 1978 and fared poorly from the much more Korean-focused competitors from the domestic Hyundai and Kia. The Caravan persisted right until early 1979, at which level GM decided it was time for a substitution of all a few types. In general, there was not a lot of a attract for the Korean customer to order a domestically-produced automobile that was a leftover from what GM provided in other international locations.

Saehan tried out again in 1977 with its very first new merchandise due to the fact GMK’s start in 1972. Identified as the Saehan Gemini, it was a mild rework of the European sector get on the Isuzu Gemini that debuted in 1974. The Gemini was an attention-grabbing solution deserving of its possess Rare Rides Icons protection. Rear-generate and subcompact, the Gemini was based mostly on the GM T-entire body platform. The T was GM’s initial attempt at a unibody subcompact to be marketed in most planet marketplaces, and you’d know it as the platform beneath the Chevette. 

Right after its initially couple yrs, the Gemini stood as the only cost-effective passenger automobile presented by Saehan. It was designed in two-door coupe and 4-door sedan formats and was driven by a gasoline 1.5-liter inline four excellent for 73 horsepower. Crucially, the Gemini’s engine was not developed domestically but was imported from Europe. That intended just one of its critical components was crafted with overseas labor and subject to taxation, which manufactured the Gemini highly-priced versus its level of competition.

Relatively than use Isuzu styling, GM marketed Koreans a trim rework of the Opel Kadett C. Said Kadett C was also rebadged for the British isles marketplace as the Vauxhall Chevette. For Saehan needs, the Gemini was a a lot more effective item and became the to start with of GM’s Korean wares that were being exported to other markets (locations wherever GM did not presently provide a variation of the T). For export use, the Gemini was badged as a Bird, for what ever reason. 

Even though it was expensive, the Gemini experienced a assert to fame in the Korean sector: It was the only compact automobile readily available with an automatic transmission. The Gemini was extremely productive in the Korean marketplace for a couple of years but fell from reputation as Hyundai’s initial mass-developed car or truck stormed the marketplace. It was of course the Giugiaro-made and Mitsubishi-run Pony. But the Gemini was not down for long, as we’ll understand in our future installment.

At the substantial end of the marketplace was the old GMK Rekord, and its substantial-trim sibling the Rekord Royale. Both of those autos were being centered on the European Opel Rekord D, which GMK launched to Korea in 1972 as the 1900. In 1975 GMK began to import the extra upscale Commodore B as effectively and called it the Rekord Royale. However it was the exact same automobile underneath, the Royale experienced nicer trim and was a little bit for a longer time at the entrance.

Both equally names changed in 1976 when they were being newly promoted as Saehan autos. On the other hand, the uncomplicated two-design executive automobile lineup was shorter-lived. The fundamental Rekord D concluded its global production in 1977, immediately after a prosperous operate of in excess of a million cars. Normally, Rekord D was changed by Rekord E. In Korea, the Saehan Rekord remained in its old format section way by way of 1978.

At that position, the new Rekord E arrived, donning the anticipated grille and badge swap. However, the lineup was revised, as the E was marketed as the Saehan Rekord, and Saehan Royale. In export marketplaces, the aged Rekord Royale combination identify was nevertheless used. 

The organization attempted to differentiate the foundation design from the upscale version, but in fact, the only discrepancies have been some trim. Also, the Royale experienced the more official entrance clip from the Opel Senator A. There was a new line of Royale trims circa 1980, as the Royale matured into the Royale Collection. That meant there was an supplemental badge on the back of a customer’s Royale Diesel, Royale Salon, or Royale Computerized. Rekords and Royales have been also shipped with foreign engines, created in Germany by Opel. But that was a lot less of a pricing challenge at the better stop of the marketplace.

Engines were being of 1.5-, 1.9-, or 2.-liter displacements, with unimpressive horsepower figures of 60, 85, and 102, respectively. The smallest motor was a notable one particular, as it was employed for Korean export only: Opel experienced not applied that 1.5 in a new motor vehicle given that the 1970 Rekord C. Irrespective of German engines, the Rekord and Royale employed body panels from the Australian-created Holden versions of the Opels.

With the Rekord/Royale as an set up luxurious auto in South Korea and the Gemini serving the reduce-center customer, it appeared Saehan was at last receiving founded as a bit participant in the industry. On the other hand, factors were being not settled for extra than a handful of months. 

Even though the Gemini and Rekord versions were being model new at Saehan, there were being changes transpiring at Saehan HQ. Particularly, a conglomerate named Daewoo had its eye on breaking into the automotive sector. We’ll pick it up there up coming time.

[Images: Saehan, Opel]

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