Facing tough fight, underdog Chevrolet launches Impala

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Facing tough fight, underdog Chevrolet launches Impala

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Chevrolet’s full-size Impala sedan, displayed at a launch event held at the Hotel Shilla in central Seoul on Tuesday. [NEWSIS]

Chevrolet unveiled its secret weapon to expanding its share of the Korean full-size sedan market on Tuesday, rolling out its flagship Impala sedan at the Hotel Shilla in central Seoul.

The move is the opening salvo in the battle for the four-door sedan market, which many other automakers will join later this year. GM Korea has been struggling in the Korean sedan market for years, and debuting the Impala is the company’s first real attempt at gaining ground. The model was first released in 1958, and subsequent sales number around 16 million worldwide. The Impala was the bestselling full-size sedan in the United States last year, with 140,000 units sold.

The model that will meet Korean consumers is the 10th generation, first introduced in 2013, and will reach the peninsula next month.

“First of all, we would like to celebrate that the company successfully wrapped up its wage negotiations with the labor union without any disputes for two consecutive years,” said GM Korea CEO Sergio Rocha. “It showed that the corporate leadership and employees are united, and we are very proud to introduce the company’s flagship Impala sedan to Korea at the moment.”

The Impala is available with two powertrains that incorporate fuel-saving direct injection and lightweight components: a 3.6-liter (1-gallon) SIDI V-6 engine and a 2.5-liter Ecotec SIDI four-cylinder engine with a six-speed automatic transmission.

The 3.6-liter SIDI V6 engine provides 309 horsepower and 36.5 kilogram-meter (264 foot-pound) of torque, the highest horsepower of any full-size sedan with a naturally aspirated V6 engine. It offers a fuel efficiency of 9.2 kilometers per liter (21.6 miles per gallon). The 2.5-liter Ecotec SIDI is part of a new family of four-cylinder engines developed to boost efficiency. It offers 199 horsepower and 26.0 kilogram-meter of torque.

The 2.5-liter engine is the first in its class to apply stop-start technology, which automatically shuts down the engine when the car idles for a certain amount of time.

Based solely on the Impala’s price tags, the company seems primed to recover from its past failures in the mid- and large-size sedan market.

The company’s earlier sedans, such as the Alpheon, failed to attract Korean consumers as they were more expensive than rival models while offering similar features and performance.

In July, the company announced that it decided to stop producing the Alpheon in Korea and to directly bring in Impala from the United States. The standard 2.5L LT is offered at 34.09 million won ($28,845), while the 2.5L LTZ is offered at 38.51 million won and the 3.6L LTZ is offered at 41.91 million won.

The 2.5 LT is offered at $30,135 in the United States, meaning that the Impala in Korea is 1.43 million won cheaper. The 2.5 LTZ is also 2.74 million won cheaper and the 3.6L LTZ is 480,000 won cheaper than the U.S. Impalas. Considering that those price tags in Korea include some safety options and the navigation system, which consumers in the United States have to pay an additional $2,730 to install, the Korean cars are much cheaper.

In general, most foreign automakers sell their cars at higher prices in Korea than at home.

“About 4,000 to 5,000 Alpheons were sold per year in Korea in the past, and we expect the sales of Impala to be three to four times higher,” said CEO Rocha.

The company has already received more than 1,000 pre-orders since it started taking orders on July 31.

Starting with the Impala, automakers that focused on selling SUVs in the first half will introduce new, competitive sedans in the second. Hyundai Motor will roll out its new small Avante sedan, and BMW will also introduce an upgraded edition of its 3 Series sedan. Kia Motors already started selling its new K5 last month.


BY KWON SANG-SOO [kwon.sangsoo@joongang.co.kr]

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