BUPYEONG, South Korea – The new Winstorm/Captiva cross/utility vehicle GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co. has in production here holds considerable promise, the company says.

The Winstorm version will be launched in the Korean market June 7, marked by a special news conference to be held that day. The Chevrolet Captiva version is strictly for export to international markets and will be available in Europe starting in September.

Also for Europe is the Opel Antara, which is a modification of the Winstorm/Captiva. It uses the same architecture but a somewhat stiffer suspension that’s more “German feeling,” officials here tell Ward’s, and will be built alongside its CUV stablemates in a contract arrangement.

The Antara reportedly will debut at the Paris auto show in September and will go on sale in Europe by year’s end. It will offer a choice of two gasoline engines and a turbodiesel option

General Motors Corp. Vice Chairman Bob Lutz said at the Frankfurt auto show last fall the Antara also would be coming to the U.S. as the next-generation Saturn Vue. Saturn showed the PreVue concept, a near carbon copy of the Antara, at the New York International Auto Show in April.

GMDAT CEO Nick Reilly, who May 30 was appointed president-GM Asia Pacific effective July 1, tells Ward’s GM is planning a CUV for the North American market based on the Winstorm/Captiva architecture.

Adam Opel AG is keeping a strong hand in it, but GMDAT will produce the Antara in Plant 2, along with the Winstorm/Captiva and new Tosca sedan.

Seung Kyung-nam, plant manager of GMDAT’s No.2 plant at the Bupyeong production and engineering complex, says he can’t wait to order a Winstorm for himself, noting it is the best vehicle the Korean upstart auto maker has built in its short, 3-year history.

In fact, Seung says the Winstorm/Captiva is the best vehicle ever developed and produced at the Bupyeong complex. He bases that on his quarter-century experience at the plant, first with the former Daewoo Motors Co. Ltd. and, since last year, as a production executive with GMDAT.

The plant has been dedicated to intermediate size cars since it first went into production in 1970.

The Winstorm/Captiva is GMDAT’s first-ever CUV and first diesel-powered vehicle to hit the domestic market. The 2006 game plan conservatively targets about 20,000 sales in the Korean utility/vehicle market, to claim 13% of the entire segment.

Not shrinking from a tough fight, the GMDAT Korean marketing team defines the segment targeted as all CUVs, SUVs and multipurpose vehicles currently in the domestic market. These include the Hyundai Terracan, Santa Fe and Tucson: Kia Sorrento and Sportage; and the Ssangyong Rexton and Kyron.

However Reilly told Ward’s earlier this month he has an aggressive sales plan for the Winstorm/Captiva.

“When it’s fully rolled out in all of the markets, we expect to sell 150,000 units in the first year, with 28,000 of those sales in Korea,” he said.

The Chevy Captiva version for Europe, Australia and other offshore markets currently is in Phase 1 pilot production here for the 2.4L 142-hp DOHC inline 4-cyl. and the 3.2L 225-hp V-6 gasoline models.

The Captiva with a 2.0L 150-hp common-rail direct-injection mill is in Phase 2 pilot production. The engine has just gone into production at the auto maker’s new diesel plant in Gunsan.

The diesel mill was developed jointly by GM Daewoo, GM Powertrain and Italy's VM Motori SpA. It is the first of a family of diesel engines Chevrolet is launching in Europe this year.

The Captiva, which will be sold through GM distribution channels in Europe and most other international markets, was introduced at the Geneva auto show last spring. It will be sold as the Holden Captiva in Australia. GM Holden Ltd. did the engineering for the vehicle.

Chevrolet says the Captiva will be the first of its European models to have electronic stability control. The vehicle is available in front-wheel-drive and 4-wheel-drive configurations.

The 4WD variant boasts an active-on-demand type system, where the rear axle is instantly employed via an electronically controlled electro-magnetic coupling for maximum traction in rough driving conditions, the auto maker says.

GMDAT acquired the Bupyeong production facilities last year, exercising an option that was part of its Daewoo acquisition agreement in 2002. The auto maker also acquired the Bupyeong research and design and engineering centers the same year.

The Bupyeong plants were acquired two years ahead of the option’s expiration deadline. Seung says that happened because he and his team were able to bring the facilities and the employee work ethic up to GM’s criteria, as certified by its Global Customer Audit procedures.

Prior to that,the Bupyeong production facilities were operated as Daewoo Incheon Motor Corp., an entity owned by the creditors of the old Daewoo Motors.

Plant 2 previously produced the Magnus sedan. It has been replaced by the new Tosca sedan, which went on sale in Korea in late January. It also will be sold in Europe and was introduced at Geneva along with the Captiva.

The Winstrom/Captiva models went into production at Plant 2 like a hand going into a glove, say Seung. “Usually a new product needs a lot of new processing equipment, but we have flexible lines.”

He says the new Tosca and the two CUV models took just two-and-a-half years from design sketch to pilot production. No new equipment was needed.

Designed for production as well as performance and looks, the new models required just recalibration of existing equipment and new dies in the stamping and welding shops.

Seung says while there is a high percentage of automation in some parts of the plant – 90% in the body shop and 35% in the paint shop, there only is 2.4% automation in assembly.

“The average age of employees in my plant is 44, and most of them have 20 years of experience,” he says. “They’re really skilled workers. That’s where the quality comes from.”

Seung’s team got the all-new Tosca through full pilot launch in five months, going to full production in January, he says. It is selling in Korea at three times the rate of the Magnus model it replaced.

Shrewd planning and engineering resulted in some shared features between the sedan and CUVs – but it has been pulled off without compromise, GMDAT says. The features were designed, developed and tested to meet all three specific vehicle requirements.

The trio shares the same foamed impact absorbing instrument panels, Aisin 5-speed automatic transmission with manual shift feature and 4-speed transmissions.

Similarities between the Winstorm and Captiva are many. The sheetmetal is identical. They share the same suspensions, McPherson strut front and 4-link rear suspensions and have the same wheels, with ventilated disc brakes all around.

In Europe, however, the Chevrolet Captiva will be available with a sophisticated electronic stability program with hydraulic brake assist, hill descent control and active rollover protection.

It also can be ordered with an active leveling system that adjusts the suspension for different load conditions and trailer towing.

Both CUV variants also have a safety feature that is much acclaimed by European insurance rating agencies and insurers. They have two steel crash boxes forward of the engine and two in the rear, designed to absorb energy and deform in head-on and direct rear collisions and spare front and rear fenders from damage.

The diesel mill is applicable to all three vehicles, as well.

The Tosca currently is available with the gas engines and will add the diesel this fall. It also has launched in a 2.0L liquid propane gas version for taxicabs.

The Winstorm will be marketed in Korea only with the diesel. The same Euro-4 compliant engine is fitted to the Chevrolet Captiva and is expected to account for more than 50% of sales in Europe. The Captiva also is available with the two gasoline options.

The differences between the two CUV versions is slight. The front end badging and rear nameplates are different, as are the combination taillamps. The Captiva features a round cat’s eye back-up beam with a bright amber brake light in the top portion and a fog lamp in the lower sector.

The Winstorm version lacks the fog lamps and the lamp for the back-up lights has a rectangular lens.

Plant Manager Seung is very enthusiastic about the quality of his workforce and says it now has been expanded dramatically.

Plant 2 has been running at a line rate of 25 jobs per hour, producing 200 units in an 8-hour day, with 1,300 workers. By this month, Seung’s team will have ramped up line speed rapidly to 42 jobs per hour. That will increase throughput by 70% to 328 units on an 8-hour shift.

To do this, he has added an additional 1,050 workers operating on two shifts to produce 656 units daily. That is a production increase of 330%, while a total of 2,350 employees represent only an 80% increase.

“That’s a tremendous increase in vehicle production in proportion to the increase in employees and is very efficient,” says Seung, who takes in stride the balancing act of producing 30 variations of three different models.

They include:

  • Tosca – L6 2.0 DOHC;L6 2.5L DOHC; 2.0 L diesel; 2.0L LPG, 5-speed automatic; 4-speed manual; five trim levels; taxi version; and handicap version.
  • Winstorm – 2.0L diesel; front-wheel drive; all-wheel drive; 5- and 7-seat versions; and four trim levels.
  • Captiva – 2.0L diesel; 2.4L 4-cyl.; 3.2L V-6; FWD; AWD; 5- and 7-seat versions; and four trim levels.

Counting the Antara, that takes the models being produced at Plant 2 to four and the vehicle variations closer to 40, at a steady line rate of 42 jobs per hour on two shifts.