Founded in 1962 as Saenara Auto Company, Daewoo Motor Company (DMC) is Korea’s oldest carmaker. In 1998 it was the second largest carmaker in Korea, with an annual production capacity of 2 million cars worldwide.
The first studies of DMC appeared in the late 1980s, when the com-pany was still under GM’s control. Ryuetal. (1989) reported that the company’s ongoing crisis throughout the 1970s and 1980s was largely due to GM’s transnational strategy. On the verge of bankruptcy in 1992,DMC separated from GM. At about this time, Daewoo Group commenced an ambitious period of global expansion, including the car business.Between 1995 and 1997, when Daewoo’s global network of production,R&D, and sales and marketing was being set in place, business scholars carried out case studies of Daewoo (see Kim T.-K. 1997; Choe J.-Y. 1998;Park C.-H. 1998).
Unfortunately Daewoo Group and DMC collapsed in August 1999 under massive debts amounting to US$60 billion. This was one of the world’s largest bankruptcies. The scale of Daewoo’s collapse has caused it to be seen as the embodiment of ‘inefficient East Asian firms’. Liberal scholars and policy-makers felt that industrial policy and cronyism,wrong corporate governance and low transparency, high debts and low profitability were the primary causes of the corporate failure.
DMC’s failure in the 1970s–1980s and then Daewoo’s bankruptcy in 1999 paint quite a different picture, however. First, DMC (GM-Korea in the 1970s) was exempt from industrial policy until 1992, because of the dominance of its ‘partner’. Section 7.2 will show the ways in which this transnational dominance prevented the company from developing organizational capabilities. Second, Daewoo’s global expansion in the 1990s, which ultimately led to the collapse, had been made possible by the opening of the capital account and abolition of industrial policy.Sections 7.3–7.6 will analyse Daewoo’s strategies and capabilities in the 1990s, in association with the liberalization and globalization of the Korean economy in the period, and discuss the real reasons for the failure.Third, as we will see in section 7.1, DMC’s corporate governance was very similar to that of HMC, and yet HMC performed very well. Daewoo’s failure was rather due to its path dependency in organizational routines (its reliance on entrepreneurial core capabilities), which turned out to be core rigidities.
Daewoo Group and Daewoo Motor Company
History and business
DMC was one of the largest companies of Daewoo Group. Daewoo Group,the second largestchaebol(by assets) in 1997, included 33 domestic companies (see Figure 7.1) and 372 overseas affiliates in the diverse business areas of trade, finance, automotives, shipbuilding, machinery,electronics, telecommunication, construction, and so on. The group employed 320,000 people around the world, and accounted for 8 per cent.
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Daewoo's Globalization: Uz-Daewoo Auto Project
On a weekend morning in August 1997, Mr. Woo Choong Kim, chairman and CEO of Daewoo Group, was chairing a small-group discussion about Daewoo’s business projects in Uzbekistan. Reviewing progress over the last five years, Chairman Kim was preparing for an upcoming visit to Uzbekistan. Daewoo’s investments in the automobile, electronics, textile and banking sectors were bearing fruit. freparations for the rollout of its telecommunication business were going well. Uz-Daewoo Auto Co., which opened the way for cooperation with Uzbekistan, was stepping up its production as planned, but facing several marketing and operational challenges. While the Uzbekistan government was pushing for more export sales, current moves announced by Ford, Opel, and Kia threatened to increase competitive pressure on Uz-Daewoo Auto in both the domestic and export markets. A shortage of hard currency and the limited convertibility of the local currency (Sum) constrained further investment.1 With two new investment projects outside the automobile industry proposed by the Uzbekistan government, Chairman Kim and his senior managers had to answer the challenges facing the automobile business and, at the same time, review Daewoo’s overall strategy in Uzbekistan.
Founded in 1967 as a small textile trading company, the Daewoo Group was one of the world’s largest industrial enterprises. Consisting of 31 domestic companies and 454 overseas subsidiaries and branch offices with more than 250,000 employees worldwide as of June 1997, the Daewoo Group was engaged in trading; in domestic and overseas construction; in shipbuilding; and in the manufacture of motor vehicles, heavy machinery, telecommunications equipment, consumer electronics, home appliances, textiles, and other products. Daewoo also had investments in financial and telecommunication services, and operated hotels worldwide. The Daewoo Group recorded total sales of US$68 billion in 1996 and ranked 24th on the Portune Global 500. Exhibit 1 summarizes the sales and export growth of Daewoo, and Exhibit 2 breaks down Daewoo's overseas business network by region and by line of business.
Daewoo Corporation was founded in 1967 as a producer and exporter of textile products. The company became the parent of what was known in 1997 as the Daewoo Group, which comprised 31 companies. Exports grew from US$580,000 in 1967 to US$40 million in 1972. In that year, the company became the second-largest Korean exporter and was awarded the “Order of Industrial Merit, Gold Tower” by the Korean government.2 Daewoo Corporation went public in 1973 and diversified into construction, financial services, and apparel manufacturing, in each case by acquiring financially distressed companies. fredicting the imposition of textile import quotas by the U.S. government, Chairman Kim strongly pushed for maximum textile exports. As a result, when the quotas were allocated among suppliers based on their shares of exports into the United States, Daewoo Corp. benefited by reselling a portion of its quota, as well as by making profits on its own export sales. According to a senior Daewoo executive
By 1979, Daewoo was Korea’s biggest exporter and one of the five largest conglomerates in Korea. By 1981, the number of Daewoo overseas offices had grown to 65. In 1982, consumer electronics and telecommunications were added to Daewoo’s business portfolio. Daewoo Telecom’s 16 bit personal computer Model D became a popular choice in the U.S. market under the Leading Edge brand. Expansion into emerging markets including several former communist nations laid the foundation for Daewoo’s continued growth. Daewoo played a leading role in developing Korea’s economic (and diplomatic) relations with Libya, Sudan, Iran, China, and Russia throughout the 1970s and 1980s. Korea’s first commercial office in Eastern Europe was established by Daewoo in East Berlin in 1988, followed by other Daewoo offices in frague in 1989 and Moscow in 1990. A refrigerator plant was dedicated in China in 1988. Daewoo formed the first Korean-Chinese joint venture in 1989 to produce color-picture tubes. Throughout the 1990s, Daewoo continued its leading role in building economic relations with foland, Romania, and North Korea.
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