Cadillac switch backfires with union

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Cadillac switch backfires with union

GM Korea’s decision to switch to Cadillacs for its executives is being criticized by the labor union as disrespectful to employees who make the flagship Alpheon sedan at the company’s Bupyeong Plant in Incheon.

According to industry sources, GM Korea Company recently decided to provide Cadillacs to 12 executive committee members who had been using Alpheons.

Cadillac, the luxury brand of GM, is imported and sold by a different entity - GM Korea Co. Ltd - although GM Korea Company President and CEO Sergio Rocha is the co-CEO. GM Korea Company, the nation’s third-largest automaker, manufactures only Chevrolet vehicles.

The company’s labor union doesn’t like the idea of executives riding around in cars that aren’t made in Korea. In protest, the union last week placed “warning stickers” on Cadillacs trying to enter the plant that read “This car’s entrance to our company steps on the pride of our GM Korea labor union members.”

GM Korea officials said that just like Chevrolet, Cadillac is a brand of General Motors that deserves to be promoted. The company said it would continue a dialogue with the union on the matter.

Rocha said GM Korea this year will focus on elevating the brand value of Cadillac in Korea and hopes to sell more than 2,000 Cadillacs within three years.

According to data from the Korea Automobile Importers and Distributors’ Association, only 133 Cadillacs were sold from January through May, a 0.22 percent share of the imported car market.

While the entire imported car industry has seen a 19.4 percent year-on-year increase in sales for first five months of 2013, Cadillac went in the reverse direction, showing a 36.7 percent decrease.

Industry insiders said GM Korea’s recent decision may affect ongoing wage bargaining with the union. Others speculated that GM Korea’s Brazilian CEO may not have a good understanding of the Korean auto industry’s culture of pride in its products.

For instance, although Kia Motors became part of Hyundai Motor Group, executives of Kia don’t use Hyundai Motor vehicles as their business cars.

Hyundai provides the Equus or Genesis for its executive, while Kia supplies the K9 or K7. Renault Samsung Motors, the Korean unit of French automaker Renault, uses the SM7 for its executives. Ssangyong Motor supplies the Chairman W Limousine for president-level executives and the Chairman W CW700 for vice presidents.

BY JOO KYUNG-DON [kjoo@joongang.co.kr]

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