This series is all about automotive history, and Daewoo’s ill-fated attempt to sell cars in North America under its own branding offers us some fascinating historical lessons. We took a look at a discarded example of the Daewoo Leganza luxury sedan in Wyoming recently, and now it’s the turn of a Daewoo Lanos econobox that got thrown away in Northern California.
GM sold the Daewoo LeMans with Pontiac badges in the United States from the 1988 through 1993 model years, so it must have appeared that Americans were ready to buy more Daewoo models.
There were three in total, sold here from 1999 through 2002: the subcompact Lanos, the compact Nubira and the midsize Leganza.
It has become very difficult to find any of these three in car graveyards recently, because most were crushed a decade or so back. I was excited to spot this one in a yard just east of Sacramento, and even more so when a quartet of military jets screamed overhead on full afterburner.
Because San Francisco Fleet Week was coming up, I assumed it was the Blue Angels F-18s practicing for the show. In fact, they turned out to be the Air Force Thunderbirds in their F-16s, presumably operating out of nearby Travis Air Force Base. You never know what you’ll see during a junkyard trip.
The ’00 Lanos was seriously cheap, with an MSRP of just $8,669 for the base three-door hatchback (the sedan version was $9,449). That’s just $15,807 and $17,229 in inflation-adjusted 2023 dollars. Another affordable South Korean machine, the Hyundai Accent, started at $9,699 that year ($17,685 in today’s money).
Unfortunately for Daewoo sales here, the company’s CEO fled the country to avoid fraud and embezzlement charges in 1999. The following year, Daewoo declared bankruptcy. GM ended up buying the parts of Daewoo’s car-manufacturing operations that it didn’t already own (while not buying Daewoo Motor America). Eventually, warranty service for the triumvirate of U.S.-market Daewoo models was farmed out to the Pep Boys.
That wasn’t the end of the line for the Lanos, Nubira and Leganza, however. The next-generation Lanos was sold here as the Chevrolet Aveo and Pontiac G3. The next-generation Nubira became the Suzuki Reno in the United States. Not to be left out, the next-generation Leganza continued its American tour as the Suzuki Verona.
This one nearly reached 70,000 miles during its 23-year career.
Too bad Manny, Moe and Jack ended up handling that 100,000-mile warranty.