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Daewoo cars score big in overseas markets

From freep| May 08,2007

Daewoo cars score big in overseas markets

You're not likely to see a Daewoo badge in the United States or in most of General Motors Corp.'s other markets anytime soon, but GM is selling more of the South Korean vehicles around the world under its other brand names -- including Saturn, Chevrolet and Buick -- and says it's making a tidy profit on the small vehicles.

GM Daewoo sold 1.5 million vehicles in 2006, up from the 1.2 million it sold a year earlier. The numbers include Korean sales of 128,332 vehicles, which rose 19.2% from a year earlier but grew largely because of demand for the complete vehicle kits it exports for assembly to plants in places such as China, Thailand, India, Colombia and Venezuela.

GM CEO Rick Wagoner says the $321-million acquisition of a majority stake of GM Daewoo is helping the company expand quickly in some of the world's fastest growing markets, including China, India and Russia.

"Our strategy is really pretty clear in these regions," Wagoner said Friday in New York in a presentation to GM's bankers. GM is looking for growth, without spending a lot, so it can make healthy profits on the small vehicles. "This is where, for us, the acquisition at GM Daewoo was really a breakthrough," Wagoner said.

Like its fellow Detroit automakers, GM has struggled to make profits on small cars for years. But since it purchased a minority interest in the bankrupt Korean automaker in 2002 and renamed it GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co., it has become one of the most promising enterprises in the Detroit-based automaker's global empire.

GM boosted its investment to a majority stake in 2005.

The Chevrolet Aveos sold in the United States are assembled in South Korea. The popular Chevrolet Spark sold in China is based on the Daewoo Matiz.

GM Chief Financial Officer Fritz Henderson said the company has launched Daewoo vehicles in almost every growing and established market around the globe.

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