SEOUL – GM Daewoo Auto & Technology Co.’s vehicle design center in Bupyeong, Korea, is running flat out to develop a wide range of next-generation products, including electric vehicles and other alternative-fuel models.

Tae-wan Kim, GMDAT vice president-design, says the auto maker currently is recruiting more talent. “The best of the world’s best.”

The studio’s image of creative excellence makes it a hot commodity among the world’s design community, Kim says. “We have so far received 500 applications for the positions we hope to fill.”

Locating and hiring talented designers is one of the biggest challenges the studio faces, along with meeting its complex design goals. “In addition to alternative-fuel vehicles, we’re working on a lot of different products, including a future global small vehicle,” he says.

In some cases, vehicles initially designed to operate on traditional fossil fuels will now be modified to run on electric propulsion. Such modifications involve a number of important design changes

“The vehicle configuration needs to be different to accommodate battery placement,” Kim says. “EVs don’t need as big an air opening as conventional vehicles.”

“Our main target is not using fossil fuels at all (but) operating with reduced energy. The car has to be more aerodynamic, with special attention paid to the edges of the fenders, the size of the wheels, the wheel covers and spoilers for these aero-oriented lighter vehicles.”

GMDAT plans to show some of these new offerings at the Seoul Motor Show in April 2011.

“We will show some of our very futuristic products and some next-generation Chevrolet (models),” Kim says. “We’re targeting Chevrolet for the world premium market. In Europe, for instance, all the manufacturers go there to try to sell their cars, so the quality has to be very competitive.

“Chevrolet has always been very design-oriented yet affordable, and we’re trying to maintain both fundamentals as the evolution of design continues.”

New vehicles to be rolled out in the next couple months include the ‘11 Chevrolet Captiva/Daewoo Winstorm cross/utility vehicle and a 7-passenger multipurpose vehicle, shown in concept form as the Orlando. The MPV was designed and produced at the Bupyeong center.

“The new passenger van will not be called the Orlando,” Kim notes, adding the production vehicle will look like the concept car, but with discernible differences.

The Captiva/Winstorm will feature a bigger air intake required for larger engines. The models also will have the Chevrolet family dual-port grille, he says.

GMDAT recently opened an advanced design studio in Seoul, which works in conjunction with the Bupyeong design center.

The Seoul design studio goes to work before production-oriented designs are initiated, Kim says. The center conducts advanced studies of vehicles in the U.S. and Europe and works in conjunction with other General Motor Co. design centers worldwide.

Kim says his team is allowed to weigh in on future products to be produced in other countries, as well.

“When we do new projects, all the studios around the world submit design proposals,” he says, adding GMDAT has presented a sketch and proposal for an advanced version of the Chevrolet Corvette.

The proposal is being studied in the U.S. alongside other finalists.

GMDAT’s design teams number about 200 workers, of whom “a little less than half” are designers, Kim says. Design centers typically do not reveal exactly how many designers are on staff.

A majority of the designers are Korean nationals, but nationality is not a staffing consideration.