After Hyundai prospered selling cars in the United States during the middle 1980s and then Kia Motors jumped in nearly a decade later, prospects must have seemed reasonably good for South Korean automotive manufacturers here (never mind that Kia went bankrupt in 1997 and was taken over by Hyundai). The Daewoo Group built the Pontiac LeMans for GM during the 1988 through 1993 model years, and so Daewoo CEO Kim Woo-choong must have decided, later in the 1990s, that the time was right for Daewoo-badged cars on this side of the Pacific. For the 1999 through 2002 model years, three Daewoo models were sold here: the Lanos subcompact, the compact Nubira and the Leganza midsize luxury sedan. We’ve seen discarded examples of the Lanos and Nubira in this series in recent years, and now it’s the turn of this Leganza in a Wyoming self-service car graveyard.
Unfortunately, things were unraveling badly for the company by the time the triumvirate of new Daewoo models hit American showrooms. Kim Woo-choong fled South Korea to avoid embezzlement and fraud charges in 1999 (he ended up doing time in the slammer later on) and the company went bankrupt in 2000. During the chaos, GM took over the parts of the Daewoo car-building operations it didn’t already own (while conspicuously not buying Daewoo Motor America). The Daewoo-GM plot twists continued for many years after, but we’re going to stick with the 1999-2002 period for now.
The three Daewoo models were quite cheap. For 2000, the Lanos could be had for as little as $8,669 ($15,699 in 2023 dollars), the Nubira started at $10,990 ($19,903 now) and the cheapest Leganza model was $13,660 ($24,738 after inflation).
This car is a top-trim-level CDX, with an MSRP of $18,660 ($33,763 in today’s money), but that’s still much cheaper than the price tag on, say, a 2000 Mitsubishi Diamante: $24,997 ($45,269 now).
Daewoo got American college students — called “Daewoo Campus Advisors” — to pitch cars to their peers, giving them loaner Daewoos to drive in the process. Apparently, many of those cars were never heard from again.
The base Leganza had a manual transmission as standard equipment, but I’ve never seen one so equipped. The engine was a 2.2-liter four-cylinder rated at 131 horsepower and 148 pound-feet, which wasn’t much for a car that weighed more than 3,200 pounds.
Still, the Leganza CDX came with some decent standard equipment for the price. Air conditioning, good audio system with a remote CD changer, sunroof, power everything, the works.
2002 was the end for Daewoos here. The Pep Boys were hired to perform warranty service on Daewoos here after the bankruptcy and GM takeover.
It wasn’t quite as final as that sounds, though. In fact, Daewoo never really left our shores, because the sun never sets on the far-flung GM Empire. The next generation of Lanos became the Chevrolet Aveo starting in 2004, the next generation of Nubira became the Suzuki Reno for 2005, and the Leganza’s next generation ended up as the Suzuki Verona. There’s plenty of history in the junkyard!
This car racked up just over 160,000 miles during its life.
It’s in this place today because of a nasty wreck that tore up the right front suspension.