South Korea may consider exempting two popular commercial vehicles of GM Korea Co. from tightened environmental and safety regulations set go into effect next year, an opposition lawmaker said Friday.
The move is apparently designed to encourage the local unit of U.S. General Motors Co. to keep producing beyond the end of the year its Damas minivan and Labo pickup truck.
The carmaker has said it would end the production of the two vehicles in December as it could not meet tightened environmental and safety regulations. It also said it made its decision as it would take time and cost a lot of money to meet the regulations.
The regulations call for, among other things, all vehicles to be equipped with an on-board diagnostics II, an automatic system that informs the driver of gas emissions and engine malfunction.
Still, government officials said they could consider exempting the Damas and Labo from the regulations in case GM Korea moves to meet the improved standards, said Woo Yoon-keun, a lawmaker of the main opposition Democratic Party, citing a government report submitted to his office.
"We will consult with related ministries on delaying the application of the regulations on the two vehicles for the time being," Bae Joon-hyung, an official handling the issue at the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, said in a report to Woo.
Kim Sang-weon, a spokesman of GM Korea, said his company's position on halting production in December remains unchanged, though "consultations with the ministry are under way." He did not give any further details.
The Damas and Labo, which share the same platform and whose prices range between 7 million won (US$6,400) and 9 million won, are popular among small business owners and mom-and-pop stores for their driving convenience and low fuel costs.
Last month, several leaders of a private body that speaks for tens of thousands of small businesses visited headquarters of GM Korea and asked the carmaker to keep producing the two vehicles.
Cumulative sales of the Damas and Labo, both launched in 1991 by GM Korea's predecessor, have surpassed the 300,000 mark, according to the automaker.