Voted by South Korea’s news media as the most recognizable foreign CEO in the country, Michael Grimaldi, 58, will return to GM Daewoo Auto and Technology Co. in mid-August to wrap up business before retiring Oct.1.

Grimaldi, who is visiting in the U.S. and could not be reached for immediate comment, is well-respected by employees at GM’s small-car subsidiary and has been instrumental in furthering management-union relations in his brief 3-year stint with GMDAT.

Indeed, workers last week ratified a precedent-setting, collective-bargaining agreement that calls for a wage freeze through the end of 2009.

Lee Nam-mook, chairman of the GM Daewoo branch of the Korea Metal Workers Union, said in a statement at the time the outcome of this year’s wage negotiations “reflects a broad determination by our union members to support GM Daewoo during challenging times.

“The company and labor union need to continue to work together in order to overcome the current difficulties facing us as a result of the global economic downturn.”

Grimaldi also has been instrumental in furthering the role GMDAT will continue to play in the new General Motors Co. as its primary source of global small cars.

For the first two years of his tenure at GMDAT, Grimaldi supervised an enormous expansion of the business, with huge increases in export sales of fuel-efficient cars and the replacement of most of the company’s lineup with an entirely new portfolio of vehicles.

Unfortunately, the much-anticipated Chevrolet Cruze compact and its Korean version, the Lacetti Premiere, were released late last year in sync with the worst recession to impact the global industry in more than half a century.

Grimaldi and his management team have wrestled for the last nine months with a catastrophic drop in sales in more than 150 served markets. Only now is GMDAT showing signs of recovery.

The much-heralded new Chevrolet Spark minicar will be released in Korea when Grimaldi returns in August, and GMDAT will launch a demonstration fleet of 10 Chevrolet Volt extended-range electric vehicles in the domestic market in 2011.

Additionally, the Chevy Cruze will begin sales in the U.S. in 2011, with models produced at GM’s Lordstown, OH, plant. Before taking over the helm at GMDAT, Grimaldi was president and general manager of General Motors of Canada Ltd., a post he held for four years. He has worked for GM for 33 years.

Nick Reilly, newly appointed executive vice president and president-GM International Operations, served as president and CEO of GMDAT from 2002 until Grimaldi replaced him in August 2006, when Reilly took over GM’s Asia/Pacific operations.

In announcing Grimaldi’s retirement last week, Reilly said, “GM appreciates the fine job that Michael Grimaldi has done at GM Daewoo over the past three years, despite a challenging business and economic environment.

“He helped make GM Daewoo a stronger contributor to GM globally in terms of sales, engineering and product development.”

Grimaldi will be replaced by GM veteran Michael Arcamone, who most recently served as vice president of GM Powertrain Europe, with responsibility for 10 manufacturing plants and five engineering locations.

He also had global responsibility for small diesel and gasoline engines and small manual transmissions.

Executives at GMDAT headquarters in Bupyeong anticipate Arcamone will visit Korea soon to begin the transition process.

Grimaldi and Arcamone were part of a major GM management shakeup announced Friday that included the retirement of five top-level managers and the promotion of several others to key positions.