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Three-pot in the shute for GM Korea

New roads: A new small SUV for Chevrolet and its Australian sibling Holden might look like this Chevrolet FNR-X concept shown at last year’s Shanghai motor show.

Holden crossover might go three cylinder as GM plots new engine plant in South Korea

Chevrolet logo7 Jun 2018

GENERAL Motors’ plan to manufacture a new three-cylinder engine at its resuscitated GM Korea operation could point to a three-pot small SUV for Holden when the compact Trax comes up for replacement next year.
 
Under the terms of a $5.7 billion rescue plan announced last month by GM and the Korean Development Bank to save GM Korea from bankruptcy, GM has promised to build two new models – a small SUV and a crossover vehicle – for global markets at its downsized operation in South Korea.
 
It also has offered to make a three-cylinder engine at one of the plants, presumably to be fitted to one or both of the above vehicles and, potentially, for export for fitment to GM products built elsewhere.
 
GM has not spelled out details of the proposed vehicles or the engine, but a Trax replacement would seem logical, as GM Korea has made the current model for both Chevrolet and Holden at its Bupyeong plant since 2013.
 
Also known as Tracker in some markets and closely related to the Buick Encore and Opel Mokka that are also made in South Korea, the Trax is powered by four-cylinder engines in its Holden guise.
 
These are a 103kW/178Nm normally aspirated 1.8-litre petrol unit hooked up to a five-speed manual gearbox and a 103kW/200Nm 1.4-litre turbo with a six-speed automatic transmission.
 
The next-generation Trax and Encore are both expected to be built on GM’s new G2XX platform that replaces the ageing Gamma 2 architecture that underpins a raft of GM small car models, including Trax, Spark and Barina.
 
In Europe, GM’s former subsidiaries, Opel and Vauxhall, have offered a three-cylinder engine in small models such as the Adam, Karl, Corsa and Astra in Europe and the United Kingdom since 2013.
 
That engine is part of a family of small-capacity modular three- and four-cylinder engines dubbed SGE (Small Gasoline Engine) developed jointly by Opel and GM’s Chinese partner SAIC Motor. The latter employs the engine in its own-brand MG products, including the MG ZS small SUV sold in Australia.
 
The current three-cylinder engine is built in Hungary at an Opel plant that fell under the control of new Opel/Vauxhall owner PSA Group when GM sold its European operations to the French conglomerate.
 
This might explain GM’s proposal to switch the engine production to South Korea.
 
So far, Chevrolet’s Trax replacement and the other crossover planned for South Korean production have been kept under wraps, but some pundits suggest the styling might borrow a few of the design signatures of the FNR-X (Find New Roads Crossover) concept shown at last year’s Shanghai motor show.
 
Designed in China, that vehicle was a plug-in hybrid, but could be built with a variety of powertrains.
 
Several manufacturers are opting for compact, light three-cylinder petrol engines for their plug-in hybrid powertrains, perhaps providing another outlet for South Korean-built engines within GM.
 
So far this year, Holden has sold 2284 Trax SUVs, representing a decline of 23.6 per cent, in line with the company’s overall sales decline of 23.2 per cent.
 
However, small SUV sales have soared more than 30 per cent, meaning the Trax segment share has fallen from 7.9 per cent to 4.6 per cent in 12 months.
 
Meanwhile, GM has agreed to shift its Asia-Pacific regional headquarters from Singapore to South Korea under the restructure of its GM Korea operations.
 
The Asia-Pacific office controls GM’s Asia and Oceania operations outside of China, including Holden in Australia and New Zealand.

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