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(Yonhap Interview) GM bets on SUVs in S. Korea

All Headlines 09:00 April 02, 2019

By Choi Kyong-ae

SEOUL, April 2 (Yonhap) -- General Motors Co. is betting on SUVs to prop up lackluster sales in South Korea, a GM Korea executive said Tuesday.

GM Korea, the South Korean unit of the Detroit carmaker, recently announced it will add the Traverse SUV and the midsize Colorado pickup truck in the Korean market in the third quarter.

On top of the models, "We have a new global SUV model coming next year. We really have a broad and wide range of Chevrolet products globally that we can bring here depending on consumer feedback," GM Korea Vice President Cesar Toledo said in a group interview held on the sidelines of the Seoul Motor Show's media day event Thursday.

In this photo taken March 28, 2019, GM Korea Vice President Cesar Toledo in charge of vehicle sales, service and marketing talks to reporters in a group interview held on the sidelines of the 2019 Seoul Motor Show that lasts through April 7 at the KINTEX exhibition hall in Goyang, just northwest of Seoul. (Yonhap)

The Seoul Motor Show opened at the KINTEX exhibition hall in Goyang, just northwest of Seoul, on Friday and lasts through Sunday.

Toledo didn't give any details on the global SUV set to be launched in Korea in 2020.

Instead, he mentioned the Tahoe full-size SUV that GM Korea displayed at the biennial motor show will allow it to gauge consumers' response firsthand and then decide whether to bring it or not.

"The strategy is really focused on expanding our product portfolio. We are testing additional products at the moment at the motor show. The very example is the Tahoe," the vice president said.

Currently, GM Korea's Chevrolet lineup includes two SUV models -- the Trax compact and the midsize Equinox SUV. Others are the Spark city car, the Malibu midsize sedan, the Impala flagship sedan, the Camaro sports car, the Bolt EV, and the Damas and Labo mini commercial vehicles.

GM Korea plans to introduce 15 models from 2018-2023. Last year, GM launched the U.S.-made Equinox SUV and the upgraded Spark minicar.

Despite such efforts, GM Korea's sales fell 12 percent to 462,871 vehicles for the whole of 2018 from 524,547 a year earlier. In the January-March quarter, sales remained weak at 114,419, down 5 percent from 120,386 a year ago.

In response, GM Korea cut the prices of its major models, such as the Impala, Equinox and Trax SUVs, by up to 3 million won (US$2,700) in January.

Asked if the company is considering offering the upcoming SUV products at more competitive prices compared with rivals in Korea, Toledo said, "We will not looking at entering a price war."

GM holds a 77 percent stake in GM Korea, with the state-run Korea Development Bank and SAIC Motor controlling 17 percent and 6 percent, respectively.

GM's full-size Tahoe SUV (Yonhap)

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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