LOS ANGELES - Korea's Daewoo Motors has begun preparing for its U.S. launch by recruiting employees and advertising agencies for four separate regional companies. But its vehicles still have not been certified to meet U.S. standards, and it does not yet have any dealers.
According to a source at the EPA, Daewoo has yet to have its car line certified for a fall introduction.
Typically, a carmaker files an application for certification with EPA three to four months before starting production; that way, the paperwork is finished just as assembly is about to start.
But a new manufacturer bringing in a new model should allow a little more leeway, said the EPA source, who declined to be named.
'If I were Daewoo certifying something for the first time, I'd want to come in a little early,' the source said. 'They're OK, but they're not early. They're in the process of getting it done.'
Even if Daewoo gets its paperwork done on time, it will take an additional six weeks for the first cars to come across the Pacific.
Even so, Daewoo still has not begun to set up a distribution system in this country.
According to industry sources familiar with Daewoo's deliberations, the company is still deciding whether to retail through factory stores, traditional dealers or at-the-port delivery.
Several consultants, including J.D. Power and Associates, have walked away from Daewoo in frustration over the company's seeming inability to grasp the U.S. market, sources said.
In any event, Daewoo has begun recruiting to fill its offices in Los Angeles; Ridgefield Park, N.J.; Arlington Heights, Ill.; and Marietta, Ga. So far, Daewoo has hired only one ad agency, Ground Zero of Los Angeles, which will handle the Western region.
Daewoo will not have a central U.S. headquarters. Coordination of sales, marketing, distribution and parts for the four regions will be done from Korea, a Daewoo source said.
Daewoo regional executives referred all queries to Lee Chong-Sung, the head of Daewoo's North American operations, who is based in Seoul. Lee did not respond to messages left with the regional offices and Korean headquarters.