Europe’s Loss of Chevrolet Reverberates in GM South Korea



General Motors (NYSE:GM) has been busy adding jobs and capacity here in the States, but across the globe at its South Korean operations, the company is looking at a very different picture.

GM is now planning to greatly reduce the number of employees on its payroll in South Korea next year in preparation for the withdrawal of the Chevrolet nameplate in Europe. Europe represents one of the major export regions for vehicles built in South Korea.

Reuters reports that GM Korea’s CEO, Sergio Rocha, said the company plans to launch a “voluntary retirement” initiative, which will be open to the 6,000 salaried workers employed at the division by March. This will make for the fourth round of job cuts since 2009, according to a spokesman. However, Rocha said the automaker does not plan to shed production jobs.

Of the 6,000 salaried workers who are eligible to apply for the voluntary retirement program, about 2,200 of them are from the research and design center.

“Workloads are too light and there is a lot of anxiety about job restructuring,” an employee at GM Korea’s R&D center told Reuters. Over time, GM Korea’s production could fall by as much as 20 percent by 2015, considering the operations in the country supply most of the Chevy cars sold in Europe.

General Motors maintains that the move ”is part of our ongoing efforts to enhance operating efficiency,” according to company spokesman Park Hae-ho, though he did not reveal a target for the job reductions.

“For me, this is the biggest crisis facing GM Korea since 2000 (when Daewoo Motor went bankrupt),” the employee said to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

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