GM to debut new Spark in 2015, delays Aveo launch: Korean union


General Motors Co plans to launch its next-generation Chevrolet Spark mini car in the first half of 2015, but will delay the launch of its revamped Aveo small car to 2016, a South Korean labor union spokesman said on Tuesday.

GM has also advised the union it will produce the two new models in Korea, spokesman Choi Jong-hak said, dispelling local industry concerns that the U.S. automaker may shift some production out of the country.

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GM Korea's management briefed union negotiators on its plans during annual wage talks that ended last week, Choi said.

"The management said it originally planned to launch the redesigned Aveo in late 2015, but the plan was pushed back. It also said it will produce the new Spark in the first half of 2015," Choi said, without elaborating.

A GM Korea spokesman declined to comment, saying the company did not disclose its future product plans.

South Korea manufactures and exports the Spark and Aveo (Sonic) cars to the United States, Europe and other countries, and makes knock-down kits for assembly in Uzbekistan and others, the spokesman said.

The Spark, which was introduced in 2009, has been manufactured at GM Korea's plant in the southeastern city of Changwon, and the Aveo, which was rolled out in 2011, is made at its headquarters in Bupyeong, outside of Seoul.

GM Korea said it sold 215,177 Spark cars at home and abroad last year, and exports accounted for nearly 70 percent of the Spark sales.

GM Korea, which was created after the automaker bought failed South Korean automaker Daewoo Motor in 2002, has been GM's major Asian manufacturing base and engineering-design hub for its mini and small cars. But concerns are growing that GM may reduce its presence in Korea, after it said it would not produce the next-generation Cruze compact in the country.

Meanwhile, GM has postponed the launch of the next-generation Chevrolet Cruze by a year due to engineering changes and a desire to squeeze more sales from the small car before it is redesigned, people familiar with the U.S. automaker's plans said.

The next version of the Cruze, which had originally been scheduled to debut in late 2014, will now begin production in December 2015, said the sources, most of whom asked not to be identified in discussing GM's plans.

(Reporting by Hyunjoo Jin; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)