GM Daewoo Auto & Technology (GM Daewoo or GMDAT) was first established as National Motor in 1937 in Bupyeong-gu, Incheon, South Korea. After changing its name to Saenara Motor in 1962, Saenara Motor was bought by Shinjin Industrial in 1965, which changed its name to Shinjin Motor after establishing collaborations with Toyota.
After Toyota's withdrawal in 1972, Shinjin Motor started a joint venture with General Motors under the name General Motors Korea, but was renamed again in 1976 to Saehan Motor. After the Daewoo Group gained control in 1982 the name was changed to Daewoo Motor. In the early 1990s the company started to expand heavily throughout the world. Until 1996 all cars were based on models from General Motors. After the Asian financial crisis started in 1997, it took over the troubled 4WD specialist SsangYong in 1998, but ran into financial trouble in 1999.
In 2001 General Motors decided to buy most of Daewoo Motor's assets to form GM Daewoo. The new company started operations on October 17, 2002, with GM and its partners Suzuki and SAIC holding a stake of 66.7% with investments of US$400 million. The remaining equity stake of 33.3% was held by Korea Development Bank and several other Korean creditors with investments of US$197 million. The deal did not include 15 plants, especially Daewoo's oldest plant in Bupyeong-gu which now operates under the name Daewoo Incheon Motor Company as a supplier to GM Daewoo; General Motors plans to buy this plant by 2008. In 2004, Tata Motors purchased Daewoo's Truck manufacturing unit. In February 2005, GM invested US$49 million to raise its share in the company to 48.2%. Furthermore, GM acquired 6.9 million shares in GM Daewoo for US$21 million from Suzuki Motors in August of the same year. General Motors' share in GM Daewoo then increased to 50.9%. Suzuki still holds 11% of GMDAT but is reported to be considering selling this to GM.
GMDAT has design, engineering, research & development facilities that are involved in development for various GM products. On November 25, 2003, the design center was relocated to the new 2-story building at the Bupyeong-gu headquarters and assigned the task to style a new SUV based on GM's Theta automobile platform to be released in 2006.
GMDAT has manufacturing plants in Korea and an assembly plant in Vietnam. GMDAT-designed cars are also assembled in mainland China, Thailand, India, and Colombia (as of February 2005). Its cars are marketed in over 140 countries (as of February 2005). In 2004, GMDAT sold more than 900,000 vehicles worldwide.
In the 1990s, Daewoo expanded its presence under its own brand, notably in Europe, where it sold the Opel Ascona-based Espero and Kadett-based Daewoo Nexia (also Racer and Cielo in the domestic market; the latter is often spelled as Ciero for more Korean-like sound. The Cielo was named Heaven (Cielo means heaven in Spanish) in the Chilean market.
Under the supervision of Dr. Ulrich Bez, Daewoo developed its own models not based on any GM platform. These were codenamed as the T100, J100 and V100, reflecting the code names used by General Motors, with Italdesign Giugiaro working on the T100 and V100. The J100 was designed by IDEA of Italy. These were exported from late 1998 to Daewoo Motor America as the sub-compact Daewoo Lanos (meaning "pleasure" in Latin), compact Daewoo Nubira ("to go everywhere/anywhere" in Korean), and the mid-size Daewoo Leganza (combining the words elegante and forza, the latter meaning power in Italian). Other markets received these three cars, too. The Leganza's styling was reportedly based on an Italdesign show car based on Jaguar XJ-12 mechanicals; the real thing was more modest, with Holden-built 2.2 L engines shipped from Melbourne to Daewoo's Korean plant.
The Rezzo/Tacuma minivan and the Matiz/Spark micro-car are other models sold by Daewoo in various markets. The Magnus/Evanda is a development of the Leganza. The Daewoo Kalos subcompact was released in late 2002. A new version of the Nubira sedan was released in 2003 while the Daewoo Lacetti, a 5-door hatchback version of the Nubira, followed in 2004. The Kalos and the Lacetti were styled by Giugiaro, and styling of the Nubira sedan was the responsibility of Pininfarina. These models are sold under the Chevrolet brand in Europe.
In August 1992, Daewoo set up UzDaewooAuto, a joint venture and a factory in Asaka city, Andizhan province, Uzbekistan, leveraging the presence of a large local ethnic Korean minority. Currently, the plant assembles the Matiz and the Nexia for both the local market and export, as well as the Lacetti hatchback and sedan for the domestic market only.
Daewoo also invested into Poland's Fabryka Samochodów Osobowych in 1995, forming a joint venture for assembly of the Matiz microcar, a successor to the Tico that was very popular in the Eastern European market. Since January 2005 FSO began to produce Matiz and Lanos under their own trademark.
Since 1995, Daewoo has acquired a factory in Craiova, Romania which was producing a derivate of a Citroën model, the Oltcit. The entire production facility was refurbished to mainly produce the Cielo model and later, other models. Until 2008 it was producing the Daewoo Cielo, Matiz and Nubira models for the Romanian market, but also car parts for export, such as engines and gearboxes to GM Daewoo and to other companies. The factory was acquired by the Romanian Government and sold to Ford in 2007 (the official agreement was signed on 21 March 2008). The production of Daewoo models was stopped in May, 2008, and the name "Daewoo Automobile Romania" was changed to "Ford Romania".
In 1998, the low-volume assembly of the Lanos, Nubira and the Leganza started in Taganrog, Russia, at the TagAZ factory. The cars were sold on the local market under the Doninvest brand, as the Assol, the Orion and the Kondor, respectively. The project did not have much success, so TagAZ recently turned to Hyundai and started producing the Hyundai Accent and the Kia Rio
Following the GM buyout in 2002, GM Daewoo lost interest in its overseas assets; the deals on supplies of pre-assembled CKD kits will end in 2005 and the facilities are likely to rely on its own production capabilities from that point on.
No Daewoo-built vehicles were offered in the US for the 2003 model year. However, Daewoo exports found their way to countries such as Canada, India and the People's Republic of China. In some places of the world (notably Canada, India and Israel) the Daewoo brand did not exist at the time anymore and Daewoo cars were sold as "Chevrolet."
The re-branded Daewoo models sold in Israel succeeded far beyond GM's expectations so the Daewoo re-branding strategy was adopted to other countries as well. In most European countries however, GM retained the Daewoo brand and original model names until December 31, 2004.
GM Daewoo-built vehicles returned to the US market in 2004 and continue to be marketed to this day. The Chevrolet Aveo, Suzuki Forenza and Suzuki Reno, all offered in the US market, are re-badged Daewoos (they are sold in South Korea as the Daewoo Gentra, Lacetti sedan, and Lacetti hatchback, respectively).
In 2005, GM branded most Daewoos as Chevrolets in most markets, with Europe starting in January. Exceptions are China (where the cars are rebadged as Buick and Chevrolet), South Korea (GM Daewoo), Vietnam (where Daewoo is retained), Australia and New Zealand (Holden), the United States (Chevrolet, Suzuki), and Canada (Chevrolet, Pontiac, and Suzuki). The intent of utilizing the Chevrolet brand worldwide is to make Chevrolet a global brand of GM. One casualty of this is that the "Nubira" name disappeared in favor of "Lacetti" in the UK, although the "Nubira" sedan remains in the rest of the Europe. A final odd consequence in Europe for 2005 is that the Chevrolet Corvette, which continues to be imported, dropped the Chevrolet name, with "Corvette" becoming the marque.
In areas where GM Daewoo has no official distributors, it is possible to buy the same car under several brand names.
The Daewoo Winstorm SUV, based on the Chevrolet S3X concept developed using the GM Theta platform, was released in summer 2006 release. It is also sold in South Korea as Daewoo Winstorm. It feature a common rail Diesel engine for the first time in a Daewoo vehicle, in addition to regular gasoline engines. The engine design is licensed from the Italian engine maker VM Motori.
Developed by Daewoo, Daewoo Lacetti Premier was introduced in October, 2008.
GM Daewoo will also take responsibility for developing the future version of the GM Gamma platform, currently used by the Opel Corsa D and the Fiat Grande Punto. Therefore, it has been speculated that the Chevrolet Corsa C, sold in Latin America since 2002, may be replaced or joined by a slightly modified version of the Corsa D - in the latter case, it might be named Astra (like the Chevrolet Vectra, which is a Opel Astra C with a different front end), and the Corsa may be followed by a Kalos/Aveo built on the Corsa B's platform with many shared pieces with the Chevrolet Celta.