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

Raymond S. Hughes

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

We return to Deserted History’s protection of the twists and turns of the Daewoo tale, at a time when the company’s predecessor, Shinjin, was no extra. Just after an early Seventies joint enterprise with Typical Motors observed the firm renamed to Standard Motors Korea, Shinjin bowed out of the offer soon after just five yrs. In 1976 Shinjin’s possession in the organization was offered to a point out-owned Korean bank, and Basic Motors Korea was renamed to Saehan Motor Business. But that did not necessarily mean GM was out of the picture – much from it.

As we learned beforehand, the cars GM Korea marketed were GM’s a variety of global wares from Europe and Australia, flippantly rebadged for Korean market utilization. The vehicles were being not suited for Korean customers and bought badly. Behind the scenes, GM did not precisely mesh nicely with Shinjin administration.

In simple fact, it was General Motors who requested the Korean government to phase in and set up for a new business associate in the joint venture. Call was created through the U.S. embassy in Seoul. Shinjin was not well off fiscally in any case, and the Korean authorities was always happy to interfere in non-public enterprise. The new arrangement with a nationwide bank would undoubtedly be much more fingers-off and relieve the management conflict GM expert with Shinjin.

With their new amount of regulate in excess of the day-to-working day functions, GM decided to enhance its circumstance in Korea by switching relatively gradually. Continued from the GMK days was the Camina, or as Australians understood it, the Holden Torana. Initially referred to as the Chevrolet 1700 below GMK distribution, it was frivolously revised and obtained a smaller engine in 1976 when it was rebranded to Camina. 

Instantly after the identify alter, the Camina grew to become a Saehan Camina. Its lesser 1.5-liter engine was a lot less thirsty than the Chevrolet 1700, but the automobile was normally the identical. It is indicated the 1700 no person desired remained on sale alongside the Camina for its closing a few yrs on the industry. It turned out nobody preferred the Camina either, and only 992 examples were offered in total in between GMK and Saehan. 

Saehan took the opportunity to step even further absent from the 1700’s failure by rebranding the wagon variant as the Saehan Caravan. Presumably, the much larger engine was much more desirable to the far more upmarket spouse and children wagon phase of the current market: Saehan managed to offer 966 Caravans in about three several years.  

The 1700 and Camina continued on sale by means of 1978 and fared badly against the extra Korean-concentrated levels of competition from the domestic Hyundai and Kia. The Caravan persisted until eventually early 1979, at which point GM made the decision it was time for a substitute of all 3 types. In general, there was not substantially of a draw for the Korean client to acquire a domestically-produced auto that was a leftover from what GM offered in other international locations.

Saehan experimented with once again in 1977 with its very first new solution since GMK’s launch in 1972. Known as the Saehan Gemini, it was a mild rework of the European market place just take on the Isuzu Gemini that debuted in 1974. The Gemini was an appealing product worthy of its possess Rare Rides Icons protection. Rear-travel and subcompact, the Gemini was centered on the GM T-system system. The T was GM’s initial attempt at a unibody subcompact to be marketed in most environment marketplaces, and you’d know it as the system underneath the Chevette. 

Just after its very first pair decades, the Gemini stood as the only cost-effective passenger automobile offered by Saehan. It was built in two-door coupe and 4-door sedan formats and was powered by a gasoline 1.5-liter inline 4 good for 73 horsepower. Crucially, the Gemini’s engine was not constructed domestically but was imported from Europe. That meant one particular of its crucial elements was built with international labor and matter to taxation, which designed the Gemini high-priced as opposed to its levels of competition.

Somewhat than use Isuzu styling, GM bought Koreans a trim rework of the Opel Kadett C. Reported Kadett C was also rebadged for the Uk market as the Vauxhall Chevette. For Saehan uses, the Gemini was a a lot more productive item and turned the first of GM’s Korean wares that had been exported to other marketplaces (sites where GM didn’t already offer a edition of the T). For export use, the Gemini was badged as a Fowl, for whatever motive. 

Even nevertheless it was highly-priced, the Gemini experienced a claim to fame in the Korean marketplace: It was the only compact vehicle available with an computerized transmission. The Gemini was quite profitable in the Korean market place for a few of decades but fell from level of popularity as Hyundai’s initially mass-produced vehicle stormed the market. It was of class the Giugiaro-built and Mitsubishi-driven Pony. But the Gemini was not down for very long, as we’ll discover in our following installment.

At the significant conclude of the market was the aged GMK Rekord, and its high-trim sibling the Rekord Royale. Both cars have been dependent on the European Opel Rekord D, which GMK released to Korea in 1972 as the 1900. In 1975 GMK started out to import the additional upscale Commodore B as properly and identified as it the Rekord Royale. Nevertheless it was the similar automobile underneath, the Royale had nicer trim and was a little for a longer period at the front.

Both names transformed in 1976 when they ended up newly marketed as Saehan cars. Having said that, the uncomplicated two-design govt vehicle lineup was small-lived. The fundamental Rekord D concluded its international manufacturing in 1977, following a profitable run of around a million cars and trucks. Obviously, Rekord D was replaced by Rekord E. In Korea, the Saehan Rekord remained in its previous format section way as a result of 1978.

At that place, the new Rekord E arrived, sporting the envisioned grille and badge swap. Nevertheless, the lineup was revised, as the E was promoted as the Saehan Rekord, and Saehan Royale. In export markets, the old Rekord Royale mixture title was nevertheless employed. 

The company tried to differentiate the base design from the upscale model, but in reality, the only discrepancies had been some trim. Furthermore, the Royale had the more formal entrance clip from the Opel Senator A. There was a new line of Royale trims circa 1980, as the Royale matured into the Royale Sequence. That intended there was an further badge on the again of a customer’s Royale Diesel, Royale Salon, or Royale Computerized. Rekords and Royales had been also delivered with international engines, constructed in Germany by Opel. But that was much less of a pricing problem at the higher stop of the market place.

Engines have been 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 a single, as it was utilised for Korean export only: Opel experienced not made use of that 1.5 in a new vehicle due to the fact the 1970 Rekord C. Irrespective of German engines, the Rekord and Royale made use of human body panels from the Australian-crafted Holden variations of the Opels.

With the Rekord/Royale as an founded luxurious car in South Korea and the Gemini serving the decreased-center consumer, it seemed Saehan was eventually finding recognized as a little bit participant in the marketplace. However, issues have been not settled for a lot more than a few months. 

Even though the Gemini and Rekord designs had been brand new at Saehan, there had been modifications transpiring at Saehan HQ. Specifically, a conglomerate named Daewoo experienced its eye on breaking into the automotive sector. We’ll pick it up there up coming time.

[Images: Saehan, Opel]

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