In Defense: GM Daewoo's Small Cars

Marcelo de Vasconcellos
by Marcelo de Vasconcellos
in defense gm daewoo s small cars

Soon after TTAC’s article on General Motors’ new model make over, the naysayers were out in force. Commenter jpolicke for example suggested selling GM stock if its future relied on engineering coming from South Korea. However, signs abound that this time around GM is finding its way. Let’s examine some of the pros and cons:

On the plus side:

  • GM South Korea products have been well received in most parts of the world.
  • 70 percent of Cadillac buyers are first timers.
  • Buick has some of the lowest aged buyers in the business in North America.
  • The latest cars (gasp!) are good.

On the negative side:

  • The corporate drama continues with no letup, as evidenced by the latest shenanigans from Dan Akerson and Susan Docherty.
  • No sign of a permanent solution to the Opel question.
  • Insufficient and inadequate brand structuring in Europe, come on GM pick one (Opel? Vauxhall? Chevrolet?) and run with it.

The fact of the matter is that I’m no GM lover. I have never harbored a thought of owning a GM car. Then, a funny thing happened. I spent some time in a Brazilian-built, so far Latin American-only, Chevy Cobalt. It made me want to buy one. This car competes in one of the fastest growing segments the world over, that of the B segment-sized, A segment-priced car (think Dacia). I should know, I own one. But I would trade mine in on a Cobalt quite easily. While not the best looking in its class, the car rides well, is quiet, comfortable and offers some of the best interiors this side of a Fusion. Then I drove a Cruze (the hatch is beautiful). I took a ride in a Spin (so practical). GM launched the Onix (the car to buy in its particular market, pictured above). In America, our own Steven Lang has praised the Sonic, while much to the chagrin of haters, TTAC has also positively reviewed the Spark. Yes they have weak points, but they have strong points too. Enough to make this previous doubter, a believer.

The second fact of the matter is that the auto industry is a whole ‘nother ballgame. One Ford (with exceptions) is showing its value. Chrysler is internationalizing its line (Cherokee is proof positive). Buick now comes from Europe. The healthy, desirable, competitive, good as apple pie American Chevies all hail from the Far East. Even pick ups are not developed solely for Americans anymore (global Ranger, Colorado/S10, Amarok). American companies that fail to see this will inevitably fail. Americans are showing they want better-handling, more frugality, tighter packaging, smaller engines. V8s don’t rule the land anymore. Ford is thinking of dropping the Taurus and is concentrating on the Focus and Fiesta. VW’s Jetta is selling briskly. With the exception of the pick ups, most cars in the top 10 sales chart in America are either small or medium sized, and come with inline fours.

The old GM is dead and buried. The old, exceptional American market is no more. Blame it on the government, blame it on CAFE, blame it on the weather if you wish. I for one think American consumers have themselves to blame. With their large scale adoption of import brands, choosing smaller engines, and generally badmouthing anything and everything coming out of Detroit, they have gotten what they were looking for. Detroit has changed. GM has changed. GM’s transformation specially has been quite thorough and the company now offers cars that can compete and, more than that, can be sold because buyers want them. Much like in Brazil, where the model makeover is in full swing but has not yet borne fruit, it takes time. Like commenter 28-cars-later said most consumers (count me in as one) are “a bit slow on the uptake”.

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4 of 109 comments
  • Shaker Shaker on May 03, 2013

    Actually, I think GM is on to something with their new crop of sedans; Malibu, Cruze, Verano and the Encore SUV - they all offer (from what I've read and heard) a premium interior/ride/noise experience compared to similar cars of the recent past, and they're all motivated by 4 cylinder engines. Though down a bit on gas mileage against their foreign competition, they're a subtle "step up" for refinement, and still get better fuel mileage than V6's. I've toyed with the idea of a Malibu with the 2.5, especially when I'm driving my 2008 Elantra on grooved concrete roads where the noise is bad enough that I can't hear the radio. And CR has rated the (non-eco) Malibu higher than ever - a big jump for GM. Still, CR complains that the Malibu is a bit pricy compared to the competition, but for some, a quiet ride (with reasonable agility) may be worth the difference. I think I'm getting old. :-(

    • Marcelo de Vasconcellos Marcelo de Vasconcellos on May 03, 2013

      couldn't agree. It does seem they are getting more refined, quiet. Shame about the consumption. At least in Brazil, the higher prices are offset by higher content levels than competitors. If the competitors have the same, they usually cost more.

  • Volt 230 Volt 230 on May 03, 2013

    The big question to be answered is durability and long term reliability, with these 72 mo loans that we see every day, will these Daewoo products make it to the end of the loan period, previous Daewoos are dying a premature death in junk yards all over the land

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