GM Eyes Korea For New EV, Warily

Assuming nothing tragic goes down on the Korea peninsula in the coming months and years, General Motors is looking to produce its next generation electric car in South Korea.

This was the report out of the recent auto show in Seoul, with GM Korea CEO Sergio Rocha delivering the news to Reuters among other sources.

image via General Motors

image via General Motors

South Korea is already the source of the Spark EV, which made its debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show last November and is expected to go on sale later this year in certain U.S. markets and South Korea.

But GM has said its plans extend well beyond that vehicle; it aims to have up to 500,000 vehicles with some form of electrification on the road by 2017, with a focus in particular on plug-in technology.

Rocha told Reuters that GM will work with LG Chem to supply batteries for its second generation of electric vehicles, which will be produced at GM’s plant in Bupyeong, near Seoul. “This (next-generation electric) car has a lot of similarities with the products we produce today in Bupyeong,” Rocha said in the interview. The word is the car will be larger than the Spark, AutoblogGreen reported.

Spark EV at 2012 LA Auto Show (image copyright EarthTechling)

Spark EV at 2012 LA Auto Show (image copyright EarthTechling)

But there is a bit of a caveat to all this, thanks to North Korea’s increasingly bellicose behavior. GM CEO Dan Akerson told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that events on the peninsula could influence not just future EV production but the entire fate of automaking in Korea. According to USA Today:

In the long-term, if producing vehicles in South Korea appears risky, GM would consider relocating vehicle assembly, Akerson said.

“I think that’s fair,” he said. “You’ve got to start to think about where you have the continuity, the supply and safety of your assets and your employees. It’s a concern to everybody.”

Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.