(ATTN: UPDATES with details in last 13 paras)
SEOUL, May 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's vice industry chief asked General Motors Co. (GM) on Thursday to make an investment in production facilities for electric vehicles (EVs) in the country, as the Seoul government has extended support for nurturing the advanced industry sector, his office said.
First Vice Industry Minister Jang Young-jin made the call during a meeting with Shilpan Amin, senior vice president of GM and president of GM International, at GM Korea Co.'s Bupyeong factory, west of Seoul, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.
"South Korea's demand for electric vehicles is forecast to mark continued growth, and the country has established a solid industry ecosystem for EVs, involving leading battery makers," Jang told Amin as the two sides had talks on the carmaker's longer-term business plan.
The vice minister noted the country's investment in cutting-edge technologies for future vehicles and various incentives to attract foreign investment in the field.
Amin said GM Korea is playing a crucial role in the company's future global strategies, and that his company will continue to provide customers with outstanding products and services in close cooperation with South Korean partners, according to the ministry.
In February, GM Korea started the production of the Trax Crossover, a strategic compact SUV for global markets, at its Changwon plant, about 300 kilometers south of Seoul.
The company shipped about 6,000 units of the new model to the United States in the same month ahead of its domestic launch in March.
GM Korea currently produces three models, including the Trailblazer and the GM Buick brand's Envista crossover, which are being assembled in the Bupyeong plant, just west of Seoul. The Trax Crossover and the Trailblazer are for domestic sales and exports, while the Envista crossover is not for the local market.
In a two-track strategy, GM Korea sells domestically produced and imported vehicles in Asia's fourth-biggest economy.
Its lineup is composed of two locally assembled models, the Trailblazer SUV and the Trax Crossover, and six imported ones -- the Colorado pickup, Bolt all-electric car, Equinox, Traverse and Tahoe SUVs, and the GMC brand's Sierra Denali pickup.
The Spark mini car, Trax compact SUV and the Malibu midsize sedan were part of the lineup, but the company stopped their production last year.
Most of the models currently sold in Korea are from the Chevrolet brand. The Cadillac brand models are available here as well. GM Korea plans to add more GMC brand models to its lineup depending on market demand.
From January to April, GM Korea's vehicle sales jumped 55 percent to 124,456 vehicles from 80,368 units in the same period last year.
In 2022, GM Korea made a turnaround in terms of net and operating figures helped by friendly exchange rates.
It shifted to a net profit of 210.13 billion won (US$159 million) and to an operating profit of 275.84 billion won after posting losses in the previous eight years.
The won's weakness against the dollar helped the company swing to profits last year. A weak won drives up the value of an exporter's dollar-denominated earnings when converted into the South Korean currency.
In May 2018, GM and the state-run Korea Development Bank signed the 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 GM's loss-making Korean unit afloat.
Under the deal, GM is banned from selling any of its stake in GM Korea before the end of 2023 and is required to keep its holding in the unit above 35 percent until 2028.
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