SEOUL, South Korea (AP) - General Motors' South Korean unit has become a major contributor to the company's global operations, a top executive said Tuesday, since it was acquired in the aftermath of the Asian economic crisis.
''To see the progress that the company has made in the last five years is remarkable,'' GM Group Vice Chairman and Chief Financial Officer Fritz Henderson said of GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co. ''It plays an enormously important role for General Motors globally.''
GM Daewoo was created in 2002 after Detroit-based GM acquired Daewoo Motor Co., the automobile unit of the Daewoo Group. That conglomerate collapsed under tens of billions of dollars in debt as a result of the economic implosion that hit South Korea in 1997-98, part of the broader Asian crisis.
General Motors Corp. has a 50.9 percent stake in GM Daewoo.
GM Daewoo last year sold 1.5 million vehicles and the unit accounts for about 15 percent of General Motors' total group production, Henderson told reporters after a two-day visit.
Of that total, about 1.4 million vehicles were exported, he added.
The company increased its market share in South Korea to 10.7 percent, from 9.2 percent last year, he said.
''It also plays an important role from the standpoint of vehicle development,'' Henderson said. ''It's the engineering and development location for the next generation GM global minicars as well as small cars.''
GM Daewoo exports some models, such as the Aveo, to the U.S. The company exported 116,761 vehicles to the U.S. last year.
In a symbol of GM Daewoo's transformation, the company announced in March of last year it was rehiring all 1,725 assembly line workers laid off in 2001 by Daewoo Motor, which went bankrupt in 2000.
''Very importantly GM Daewoo continues to place a very high priority on having cooperative, harmonious labor relations,'' said Michael Grimaldi, president and chief executive at GM Daewoo.