General Motors and its affiliate SAIC have pulled the wraps off their newest model. The 630 sedan will go on sale, early next year, as part of the two partners’ new venture, the Baojun brand.
At $7,000, the 630 model is being aimed at the next wave of new Chinese car buyers. Until now, the country’s impressive automotive revolution has been largely concentrated in Pacific Rim cities like Shanghai and Beijing. But the central government is hoping to spread its economic miracle inland and automakers like GM and SAIC are only too happy to oblige.
Under Chinese law, foreign makers must find domestic partners. The two allies are already active in a variety of joint ventures, including GM’s first Chinese factory, in Shanghai, which produces a variety of Buick models. SAIC also shares ownership of the Wuling brand, which produces a variety of low-cost microvans. Wuling, in turn, holds a stake in Baojun.
It’s common for small Chinese businessmen and entrepreneurs to use vehicles like the Wuling vans for both work and play. But Baojun – which translates as “Treasured Horse” – is aimed at the emerging middle class in third-tier cities in a country that has already become the world’s largest national automotive market.
According to Shen Yang, general manager of the SAIC/GM/Wuling joint venture, “The Baojun brand will make SGMW a more competitive automaker as we roll out a full lineup of passenger vehicles under the nameplate in the coming years. We have high expectations for the brand and our first model, the Baojun 630, which will compete in the middle range of the passenger car segment – the industry’s fastest growing.”
The Baojun 630’s design appears to be influenced by the new Chevrolet Cruze sedan. It is based off the compact Buick Excelle and was styled at GM’s technical center in Korea, rather than the maker’s PATEC facility, in Shanghai. The 630 will make use of a 1.5-liter engine produced by Roewe, a brand owned by SAIC.
In the strange bedfellow world of Chinese automaking, SAIC is partnered with Volkswagen, as well as General Motors, and it also is making cars under its own brand names, including Roewe.
GM and SAIC recently announced a new Memorandum of Understanding that could lead to not only the development of new products but an expansion of their joint efforts in China – and in other emerging markets, such as India. Last month, GM became the first automaker to sell more than 2 million vehicles in a single year in China. Meanwhile, SAIC purchased a 0.97% stake in its U.S. partner’s IPO, last week.
SGMW expects to appoint 100 new dealers to handle distribution of the Baojun brand by the middle of 2011.