The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Forrester lifts GM launch pad

New Delhi, March 2: General Motor India plans to revamp its product portfolio with a slew of launches that will include utility vehicles, premium and low-price hatchback cars.

The Indian unit of the world’s largest automaker General Motors Corp will launch the 2.2 litre fully-loaded, Sabaru Forrester on Monday with a price tag of around Rs 17 lakh in the sports utility vehicle segment.

The Forrester will sport power windows and steering, central locking, dual zone and a hi-fi music system.

Sources said General Motors India Ltd (GMIL) will introduce Daewoo Motor’s products as part of its global strategy, for the domestic market under the Chevrolet brand name.

This will be followed by launch of the Isuzu Panther, another multi-utility vehicle, in the middle of this year. “Later, GM will introduce the Nubira sedan around mid-year and the hatchback car Matiz around October-November, 2003,” sources said.

He said the 1,600cc Nubira will be rechristened Optra. The Matiz will be renamed M200 or Smart and have a 1,000cc engine.

Earlier, General Motors Corp bought the viable assets of troubled South Korean automaker Daewoo Motors when the Korean major crumbled last June under an interest-bearing debt burden estimated at $ 7.45 billion.

Daewoo Motor’s Indian unit was left out of the deal and it collapsed when its local credit pressed for repayment. The Indian arm of Daewoo Motors, which used to make and market Matiz, a success in the hatchback segment, and mid-size vehicles Cielo and Nexia, was forced to stop production in April last year.

Sources said the Optra and the M200 will be badged under the Chevrolet brand name positioned as people car or low cost cars. Nubira will finally replace the ageing Opel Astra,” he added.

GMIL currently has three products positioned in the mid-size segment — the Astra in the upper end and the Corsa and Swing models in the lower-end of the same segment.

The firm’s absence from the high volume low-price segment of hatchback cars has restricted its market share to less than 2 per cent of the nearly 6,89,830 new car market sold in 2001-02.

GMIL, which has an investment of Rs 762 crore, will soon receive a fresh capital infusion of around Rs 500 crore. As per FIPB guidelines, GM can have a maximum investment of Rs 1,360 crore.

Recently, GMIL has decided to outsource engines and transmissions from Hindustan Motors. Under the agreement, GMI will provide the technical support for the venture.

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