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Once a key subsidiary of one of South Korea's largest industrial conglomerates, Daewoo Motor is a footnote in American automotive history and known primarily as an Asian outpost for General Motors.

Daewoo's brief foray into the U.S. market in the 1990s and early 2000s included a trio of funky, cheaply made compact cars that disappeared after GM bought the company following the Daewoo Group's bankruptcy.

Daewoo's relationship with General Motors dated back to the 1970s and grew in the 1980s when the Korean company built the resurrected Pontiac LeMans and sold domestic models based on GM designs.

The company struck out on its own in the 1990s, attempting to sell its own badged models in Europe, Southeast Asia, Australia and North America. In the U.S., Daewoo sold the compact Lanos sedan and hatchback, the Nubira sedan and wagon, and the quasi-luxury Leganza sedan.

The company's efforts were hampered by poor quality and eventually its parent group's bankruptcy. GM stepped in to salvage Daewoo Motor in 2001, recognizing it as an opportunity to establish a low-cost export hub to Asia generally, and China more specifically. The partnership was rebranded a decade later as GM Korea.

While Daewoo followed a formula similar to its Hyundai and Kia rivals — low-priced cars packed with loads of standard features — we found Daewoo's performance and interior quality subpar even when measured against the inconsistent quality of its domestic competitors. The engines, sourced from GM's Australian Holden division, were adequately peppy at the time. Given the choice, though, we'd still steer buyers toward a Hyundai or Kia of similar vintage.

The legacy of Daewoo production and design lives on in today's Chevrolet Spark, which is built currently in South Korea and exported to America.



Are Daewoo cars still made?
No. The Daewoo name was phased out in South Korea in 2011 (earlier in other global markets) after General Motors rebranded its operations "GM Korea." Today, Daewoo's former factories build Chevrolet and Buick models made for domestic sales and export.

Why did Daewoo go out of business?
The Daewoo Group, of which Daewoo Motor was a subsidiary, declared bankruptcy in 1999 after amassing debt of around $50 billion. Daewoo Motor was purchased by General Motors in 2001 and reborn as GM Daewoo.

When did it stop making Daewoo?
After purchasing the assets of Daewoo Motor, General Motors ceased sales and marketing of the brand in the United States. The last year for Daewoo's trio of U.S. models was 2002. The Daewoo name was retired in South Korea in 2011.