Daewoo Motors is long gone. The one-time largest automaker in South Korea collapsed in the aftermath of a financial scandal that rocked its parent company the Daewoo Group.
The most viable parts of the ailing car company were cherry-picked by General Motors in 2001, and the rest of the company was left to wilt, and eventually vanish. Daewoo’s largest factory, the Bupyeong-gu Incheon plant, now cranks out the Chevrolet Spark, Trax, and other GM products for U.S. and global consumption.
For Americans, the Daewoo soap opera would have been little more than a business-history footnote were it not for one thing: Daewoo briefly set up shop in the United States.
Between 1999 and 2001, Daewoo sold almost 160,000 cars in the U.S. Looking to follow in the footsteps of rival Hyundai, which had been doing business stateside since the mid-Eighties, Daewoo entered the American market with three models and a low-price, high-content retail strategy.
Once it assumed control of the majority of Daewoo’s auto operations, GM felt no compunction to support Daewoo’s nascent U.S. business, and pulled the plug on the program in 2002.
In September ’02, The New York Times reported that U.S. Daewoo dealers were saddled with 18,000 unsold vehicles, many of which were not selling even at half of the suggested retail price.
In retrospect, GM’s decision to axe the fledgling Korean brand may have been an act of mercy. All three Daewoo models suffered near-universal panning in the automotive media, and performed poorly in quality surveys. Had the brand performed better, GM may have considered keeping the franchise running. But with nothing more than 200 anxious dealers to its credit, Daewoo’s U.S. operations really weren’t worth additional investment.
Presented here are all three Daewoo models offered to Americans, each of which was available between 1999 and 2002. The largest Daewoo, the Leganza, was by far the best selling–we still see the occasional Leganza in traffic here near Consumer Guide’s suburban-Chicago headquarters.
Seen a Daewoo recently? Tell us about it. We bet it was a light-blue or bronze Leganza. Odds are it wasn’t the ultra-rare Nubira Wagon.
2000 Base Price: $13,660
Trim Levels: SE, SX, CDX
2000 Base Price: $10,990
Trim Levels: SE, CDX
2000 Base Price: $8669
Trim Levels: S, SE, SX