Going Global: South Korea First To Build, Sell New 2013 Chevrolet Malibu

What do Fairfax, Kansas and Hamtramck, Michigan, and Jingjao, China have in common with Bupyeong, South Korea? All four sites will be responsible for building the 2013 Chevrolet Malibu, although the Korean facility will be the first to assemble the all-new sedan.

General Motors has long indicated that the latest Malibu midsize sedan, which premiered last month at the 2011 New York auto show and the 2011 Shanghai motor show, was designed with global sales in mind. Although the car will be sold in nearly 100 different markets across six different continents, Chevrolet today announced it will both sell and manufacture the Malibu in South Korea.

“Adding Korea as a key sales market for the new Malibu further increases the brand’s global presence,” Russ Clark, Chevrolet’s product director, said in a prepared statement. “[It] continues our growth plan while increasing our car offerings to consumers in Korea.”

That’s a good thing, considering the lineup took a slight hit when GM elected to dissolve the Daewoo brand in Korea and replace it with Chevrolet. Presently, Chevrolet’s Korean-market passenger cars include the Spark, Aveo [i.e. Sonic], and Cruze, but following the demise of the aging Daewoo Tosca sedan, the brand lacks an entry-level midsize offering. Buick’s LaCrosse is sold in Korea (as the GM Alpheon), but is purposely marketed as an upscale, luxurious offering.

Adding the Malibu may further bolster GM’s momentum in the Korean market. The automaker reported today that its Korean unit sold 71,608 vehicles in April, marking an 8.5-percent increase year-to-year, and a 5.9-percent increase over March. It’s unknown exactly how well the Malibu will pan out in the market, but GM points to strong digital interest — Korean fan clubs for the new model reportedly have over 30,000 members — as a predictor of things to come.

Thus far, GM has tapped four assembly plants to produce the Malibu for global retail. In addition to the Bupyeong, Fairfax, and Hamtramck facilities, the car will also be produced by Shanghai-GM’s plant in Jingjao, China. Bupyeong does hold the honor of being first, as production is scheduled to begin this fall, shortly before the Jingjao line comes online. Both U.S. facilities aren’t expected to begin cranking out Malibus until early 2012.

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