(ATTN: ADDS CEO's comment in 9th para, backround in 14th para)
By Choi Kyong-ae
HOENGSEONG, South Korea, Aug. 26 (Yonhap) -- GM Korea Co., the South Korean unit of General Motors Co., launched the U.S.-made Chevrolet Colorado pickup truck to give a boost to its lackluster sales Monday.
The Colorado pickup truck comes with a 3.6-liter six-cylinder gasoline engine with up to 312 horsepower and an eight-speed automatic transmission, GM Korea Co. said in a statement.
"(Korean) customers have been eagerly awaiting the truck since its unveiling in Korea last year. We look forward to addressing the needs of domestic pickup truck enthusiasts through the Colorado," GM Korea President and Chief Executive Kaher Kazem said in the statement.
The pickup truck segment now accounts for 2 percent of the country's automobile market, but it will expand as Korean consumers can express their individuality and expand their lifestyle experiences with the model, he said.
GM Korea plans to receive preorders for the Colorado through Oct. 15 before it goes on sale in late October. The pickup truck is priced at 39 million won-43 million won (US$32,000-$36,000).
The company didn't provide any sales target figure in Korea.
The Colorado will be the first pickup truck that is not manufactured based on a SUV body frame to be sold in the Korean market, the company said. In Korea, SsangYong Motor Co. has sold pickup trucks based on their SUV models since 2002.
Kazem said the company finds no rival to the "authentic American pickup" Colorado in the Korean market, and it does not have a plan to bring in the diesel version of the Colorado for now.
"More than 60 percent of the Chevrolet portfolio (in Korea) will be imported models," he said without giving the timeframe. Currently, half of GM Korea's 10 models are manufactured in the United States.
In recent years, the Detroit carmaker has been struggling with declining sales in Asia's fourth-biggest economy due to a lack of new models and tougher competition with local and imported rivals.
From January to July, GM Korea sold 263,023 vehicles, down 7.2 percent from 283,432 units a year earlier. It posted a net loss of 859 billion won in 2018 after reporting 3.13 trillion won in accumulated net losses in the 2014-2017 period.
To revive sales, the company plans to introduce 15 new vehicles in the local market for the five years through 2023. It launched the U.S.-made Equinox and the upgraded Chevrolet Spark minicar last year.
In the third quarter, it also plans to add the Traverse SUV to its Chevy lineup, which is currently composed of the Spark, Malibu and Impala sedans, the Trax and Equinox SUVs, the Camaro sports car and the Bolt all-electric vehicle.
The Bolt, Impala, Equinox, Camaro and Colorado are from the U.S., and the Malibu sedan, Trax SUV, Spark, Damas and Labo minicars are made locally.
In May last year, GM and the state-run Korea Development Bank (KDB) signed a binding agreement that will permit a combined 7.7 trillion-won lifeline -- 6.9 trillion won from GM and 810 billion won from KDB -- to keep the Korean unit afloat. GM owns a 77 percent stake in GM Korea.
Under the deal, GM is banned from selling any of its stake in GM Korea before 2023 and is required to keep its holding in the unit above 35 percent until 2028.
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