I admit I’ve got a sick fascination with luxury cars sold by companies not (at the time, in this market) known for luxury. There’s the Mitsubishi Diamante, of course, and the Mazda 929, and even the Volvo 262C Bertone (I’m still looking for a junked Daewoo Leganza, but either they don’t exist or— more likely— they fade into the junkyard background so perfectly that I never notice them). The Hyundai XG, well, that’s a perfect example of the “who’s laughing now?” phenomenon; just a decade ago, we all chortled at the idea of a Korean luxury sedan selling in the United States. Today, German and Japanese car-industry execs wake up screaming from Hyundai-themed nightmares. So, that makes today’s Junkyard Find of great historical significance (to me and maybe a dozen others). (Read More…)
Companies building cars in Canada are lobbying at the last minute to, kill an “imminent” free trade deal between Canada and South Korea that the automakers say would damage the Canadian auto industry and the greater Canadian economy. Ford Motor Co. of Canada Ltd. president and chief executive, Dianne Craig, said on Thursday that the U.S.-Korea trade agreement enacted in 2007 has been a “disaster” for auto makers. Craig urged the Conservative government not to make the same mistake as the United States.
“We understand that [the Canadian government] need[s] to look for what’s in the best interests of Canada,” Ms. Craig said in an interview with Toronto’s Globe & Mail. “But, frankly, autos are the greatest driver of GDP and we think we need to have a pretty strong voice in this conversation. This is not good for autos, which means it’s not good for the economy, which means it’s not good for Canadians.”
Now that General Motors is withdrawing the Chevrolet brand from the European market, it plans to reduce salaried employee rolls at GM Korea, which has been assembling most of the Chevy branded vehicles sold in Europe. Reuters reports that Sergio Rocha, GM Korea CEO, said that GM’s Korean subsidiary will offer a “voluntary retirement” plan to its 6,000 salaried workers, including research and design staff. Some of the product development responsibilities have already been shifted out of Korea, like the design of the current Chevy Cruze. The previous generation of the Cruze was designed in Korea. So far the reductions are aimed at salaried workers as Rocha said the company has no plans to eliminate production jobs. (Read More…)
By pure happenstance I ended up with an Elantra GT immediately after reviewing the 2014 Kia Forte sedan. As I said last week in the Forte review, the Elantra and Forte are related, but this isn’t a case of Korean badge engineering. It’s far more complicated. The Forte is the new kid on the block while the Elantra has been around for a few years. At this stage in life, Hyundai is trying to inject vitality into the Elantra name by adding new models. First we got the four-door sedan, then a two-door coupé followed by the Veloster which is just a four-door hatchback Elantra (yes, I know Hyundai calls it a three-door, but I know better). If you’re confused by door counts, the new Elantra GT is a five-door. Say what?
Though General Motors has not commented, a spokesman for the Korean Metal Workers Union, which represents employees of GM Korea, said that the automaker plans to launch the next generation of the Chevrolet Spark in the first half of 2015 but that next Aveo (sold as the Sonic in the United States) will be delayed.
Amid labor unrest in Korea, and a desire to utilize capacity in Europe, GM is moving production of the Opel Mokka (aka, the Buick Encore, and Canada’s Chevrolet Trax) out of Korea and into a facility in Zaragoza, Spain.
Free trade agreements are great, as long as the trade is really free, and as long as people stick to the agreements. In Korea, foreign automakers and distributors say Korean lawmakers and government agencies try to keep them out. There is talk of “import bashing,” says Reuters.
“Korea is a highly protected market. Despite recent agreements to open up its market, the government is not helping … it’s actually doing its best to keep the barriers in place,” Reuters heard from “a senior global automaker executive.” (Read More…)
GM has rocky relations with its Korean unions, and the relations will get a lot rockier if what Germany’s Handelsblatt says is true. According to the report, GM is seriously looking into moving most of the production of the Opel Mokka to Europe.
Currently, the hot selling SUVlet is made in South Korea only. Says Reuters: (Read More…)
When there was labor unrest in South Africa, the UAW was quick to spend union dues for a long trip to the scenic South African locale, ostensibly to show their solidarity with South African union brothers who, coincidentally, fought against Mercedes and Volkswagen. Back home, the UAW pulled a whole packet of race cards. It headlines, a bit strenuously: “South Africans have more rights than workers in Mississippi.”
It would have been more a propos if the UAW would have flown to South Korea to show solidarity with workers who are about to go on strike against GM, the company, ooops, that is partially owned by the UAW. (Read More…)
To say the Sorento’s transformation from rugged body-on-frame SUV to car-based softroader has been a sales success is putting it mildly. In the first 27 months of production Kia shifted more Sorentos than they did the 8 years prior. Sales numbers like that catapulted the Korean krossover (couldn’t help it) from CX-9/Xtera/Murano competition to 7th place in the midsized battlefield. Three model years later, Kia is spicing things up with a refresh. I know what you’re thinking: why bother looking at a refresh? Because 2014 brings enough changes to call the 2014 Sorento a redesign.
Last month, GM CEO Dan Akerson said that GM might move production away from South Korea if tensions with North Korea escalate. Korea labor unions were not amused, saying that Akerson was using the crisis as a pretext to gain the upper hand in upcoming labor talks.
Last week in Detroit, Akerson told GM’s South Korean union leader that he won’t pull GM out of South Korea. He also said he is unhappy with the Korean union, and that he will bring up the matter this week with South Korea’s President Park Geun-hye, when the “Iron Lady” will visit the U.S. this week.
Now, the union is fuming. (Read More…)
Hyundai’s top man shot down rumors of his company building a new factory in the U.S. ”We have no plan for a new U.S. factory for now,” Hyundai’s Chairman Chung Mong-koo told Reuters at Seoul’s Gimpo airport before leaving for the United States.
Rumors started flying when South Korea’s Financial News said that Kia is talking to Georgia state officials about constructing a new plant. These rumors were denied. Last week, Chung rekindled the flames by saying that Hyundai “will look into whether there are opportunities” to expand production overseas.
Chung is expected to visit Hyundai and Kia’s U.S. plants in Alabama and Georgia during his visit, which coincides with South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s U.S. trip.
Guess which South Korean carmaker prompted the South Korean government to tighten its rules about overstating their cars’ mileage? Under new South Korean government rules “aimed at reassuring consumers after Hyundai Motor Co’s fuel economy fiasco last year” it can cost more than $900,000 if one is caught with overly optimistic mileage claims, Reuters says. (Read More…)