GM Korea-anniversary

SEOUL, March 7 (Yonhap) -- GM Korea Co., the local unit of U.S. General Motors Co., vowed Thursday to strengthen its competitiveness and enhance customer service as part of its efforts to raise its market share in South Korea.

GM Korea's sales grew 12 percent in the first year that the Chevrolet brand was available here, and 4 percent in 2012 compared with the previous year, said GM Korea President and CEO Sergio Rocha.

He said his company will address cost structure in manufacturing cars, noting its operation in South Korea is losing its global competitiveness because of many structural costs, including labor issues.

He made the comment as his company celebrated the Chevrolet's second anniversary in South Korea. Chevrolet is the world's fourth-largest car brand by unit sales, according to GM Korea.

Rocha's comment came weeks after GM Korea pledged to invest about 8 trillion won (US$7.3 billion) in research and development over the next five years to boost its competitiveness.

Also Thursday, GM Korea announced enhanced customer service programs that call for, among other things, an exchange of a damaged vehicle for a new one if certain conditions are met.

GM Korea said that if a customer's vehicle is damaged in a collision with another vehicle within three years of purchase, it will exchange the damaged vehicle with a new one.

If a customer's "fault is less than 50 percent and the damage repair cost is more than 30 percent of the value of the car, he will be entitled to a new car," Ankush Arora, vice president in charge of vehicles, service and marketing, told reporters.

He described the program as a "terrific offer" and was designed to be an investment to win the hearts and minds of South Korean customers.

"The love and satisfaction of customers is critical. Therefore it's not a cost, it is an investment into making the brand much more stronger and acceptable to our customers in Korea," Arora said.

GM Korea also renewed its commitment to raise its market share to 20 percent in South Korea.

In 2012, GM Korea sold a record 145,702 vehicles here, garnering a 9.5 percent market share far behind Hyundai Motor Co., South Korea's top automaker, and its smaller affiliate Kia Motors Corp.

Hyundai and Kia, the flagship companies of Hyundai Motor Group, the world's fifth-largest automotive group, dominated the local car market with a combined share of 74.6 percent last year.

GM Korea also announced the donation of 100 vehicles, including Chevrolet Sparks, to charitable organizations and facilities across South Korea along with GM dealers and the GM employee foundation as part of Chevrolet's second anniversary celebration.

"This is our humble and small contribution back to society," Arora said, noting the move could help GM Korea become a more lovable brand.

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