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Unrealistic Ambitions; The History of Daewoo

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On: Fri, Jul 25, 2014 at 10:25AM | By: Teddy Field


Unrealistic Ambitions; The History of Daewoo

Although Daewoo cars aren't very interesting to look at or drive, they're a brilliant alternative to walking or taking the bus. The Daewoo Lanos is an affordable hatchback, with lots of room to carry your stuff around. The Daewoo Nubira offers plenty of passenger room, at a price that's much lower than its Japanese competitors. All of this affordability is interesting, as is the Daewoo story. Well, part of the story anyway...

Daewoo first began in 1937 as a state-sponsored entity called National Motors. They built little scooters and things, but nothing noteworthy. In 1962, they changed the name to Saenara Motor, then the company was absorbed by Shinjin Industrial in 1965. At the time, huge industrial conglomerates controlled private industry in South Korea. With the help of the government, Shinjin Motors was then able to build a car factory and secure a license to assemble Datsun vehicles. Along the way, a joint-venture with Toyota also came and went. Then in 1972, the company formed a partnership with General Motors, becoming General Motors Korea.

Under the name Saehan Motors (paperwork must be a national sport over there), the company built and sold various GM models until 1976, when Shinjin finally went bankrupt. South Korea's state bank took over the company, then sold it to another industrial conglomerate called Daewoo. After even more paperwork, the company became known as Daewoo Motors, and continued building variations of GM vehicles like the Daewoo Royal Duke, which was based on an Australian Holden, and the Daewoo LeMans, which was also known as the Pontiac LeMans.

Eventually, Daewoo began to develop its own cars, like the Lanos and Laganza. These cars were sold all over the world, and the brand even enjoyed a successful stint in the American market from 1997-2002. The CEO of Daewoo Motors wasn't so successful however. He was caught embezzling millions from the company coffers in 1999, and would wind up spending 10 years in a Korean prison. His actions, along with a weak Asian economy, forced the Daewoo conglomerate into bankruptcy. When they went under, Daewoo owned 275 separate companies that ranged from textile manufacturing to ship building.

General Motors stepped in to buy out the automobile division in 2001, and it promptly dropped the Daewoo name. Today, the GM Korea Company continues to build and sell cars around the globe.


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