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Busan show: Daewoo unveils LaCrosse clone

Holden power: The Daewoo Alpheo is based on the Buick LaCrosse and powered by the Holden-made 3.0-litre SIDI V6.

Daewoo’s new Alpheon has Australian motivation but no chance of being sold here

Daewoo logo30 Apr 2010

By TERRY MARTIN

GM DAEWOO has taken the wraps off a new prestige mid-sized sedan, dubbed the Alpheon, which is a virtual clone of the Buick LaCrosse sold in North America and China.

Unveiled overnight at the Busan motor show in South Korea, the Alpheon uses the same Australian-built 3.0-litre SIDI V6 petrol engine launched with the 2010 LaCrosse and is described as “a global product that would meet the highest quality and performance standards in the most sophisticated markets”.

However, Holden has advised that it does not point to a replacement for the current Epica medium-sized sedan, which is itself due to enter a new generation before long and is expected to be built off the same Epsilon II architecture that underpins the LaCrosse, Alpheon and other models, including the Opel/Vauxhall Insignia and new-generation Saab 9-5.

Despite opening a new advanced design centre in Seoul on April 20, and turning out significant global small-car designs in South Korea over the past 18 months (often in collaboration with Holden), General Motors’ decision to simply rebadge the LaCrosse as Alpheon shows a continued preference to badge-engineer larger vehicles for that market rather than undertake more substantial work.

The emergence of the Alpheon, which will sit below the flagship Veritas large sedan (a rebadged version of the Holden Statesman) in the Daewoo range, also underscores GM’s commitment to the Daewoo brand in the South Korean market, rather than broaden the scope of Buick.

171 center imageFrom top: GM Daewoo president and CEO Mike Arcamone unveils the Daewoo Alpheon, Alpheon interior and Chev Camaro at Busan motor show.

Seemingly at odds with its position on Buick, GM announced at a press conference at the Busan show that it was introducing the Chevrolet brand to South Korea “to enhance its presence in the domestic market”.

This is not expected to see the Daewoo Matiz rebadged as the Chevrolet Spark, the Lacetti Premiere becoming the Chevrolet Cruze, or the forthcoming Gentra emerging as the Chevy Aveo.

But GM has now committed to introducing a range of Chevrolet products to the South Korean market, including the Holden-engineered Camaro from 2011.

GM Daewoo president and CEO Mike Arcamone said the decision was about “brand co-existence, but not brand replacement”.

“Our decision to launch Chevrolet is in the best interest of GM Daewoo and Korea,” he said.

“Chevrolet has enjoyed success in mature markets in North America and Europe, as well as in emerging markets in Asia Pacific and Latin America. We are confident it will be well accepted in Korea as well.

“The introduction of Chevrolet will enable us to provide our customers an array of exciting new vehicles from the brand’s global line-up, giving them more driving options.

“This will help GM Daewoo increase our sales and market share in the domestic market while generating additional revenue, strengthening our employees’ job security, creating new jobs and resulting in additional investment in Korea. We regard it as a key to our long-term success.

“According to our market research, half of all Koreans are familiar with the brand and over 80 per cent are aware of Chevrolet’s distinctive logo. This is indicative of the positive brand image that already exists among consumers in Korea toward Chevrolet.

“We see tremendous upside with its introduction.”

In relation to Alpheon, Mr Arcamone said the model was Daewoo’s first entrant in the upper-mid-size segment in Korea and was confident it would “surpass the demands of the most sophisticated luxury sedan buyers in Korea”. It will be launched in the second half of this year.

The other highlight on the GM Daewoo stand was the near-production Orlando seven-seat people-mover – another Australia/Korean design collaboration that was making it first appearance in Asia.

In launching the new Seoul advanced design studio last month, GM described the studio – in the trendy Gangnam district – as evidence of its “renewed focus on designing, building and selling the world’s best vehicles”.

“Our car designers get inspiration from life and Gangnam is a place where people worship design, style and fashion,” said GM vice-president of global design Ed Welburn.

“Our Korean designers will sample perfection every day surrounded by some of the top brands and fashion houses in the world and this ideal location will nurture their creative souls.”

The South Korean design studio, which in recent years has been under the direction of former Holden designers Mike Simcoe and Max Wolff (both of whom are now in senior positions for GM in the US), houses 30 designers specialising in both exterior and interior styling of global mini and small vehicles.

The centre’s design vice-president Tae-wan Kim said: “Our new design studio will be at the forefront of fashion, the arts, culture and business. It will provide an ideal environment for our designers, who benefit from constant inspiration and stimuli.”

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