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G.M. to sell wider range of vehicles in China
( 2003-10-17 16:58) (New Youk Times)

General Motors is expanding the range of models and brands it sells in China, with plans to offer a hierarchy of divisions from Chevrolet to Cadillac as it does in the United States, G.M. executives said here this week.

G.M.'s auto finance subsidiary, the General Motors Acceptance Corporation, also plans to enter the Chinese market soon to offer car loans.

The broad effort in China reflects a decision by G.M. to make the fast-growing Chinese market a top priority, said Frederick A. Henderson, G.M.'s group vice president for Asian and Pacific operations. "G.M. must win in China, it is absolutely crucial we win here," he said.

Other automakers are also making big efforts to increase sales in China, from Volkswagen, the market leader, to DaimlerChrysler, Ford Motor, Toyota, Honda and Nissan.

When G.M. entered the Chinese market five years ago, it started with the Buick Regal. Since then, however, G.M. has expanded its offerings under the Buick brand. It now extends from the $10,800 Sail subcompact car up to the $44,500 Regal loaded with options, with $20,000 Buick Excelle compact cars, introduced in August, and $33,600 Buick GL8 minivans in between.

In offering such a wide range within a single division, G.M. has broken the formula of Alfred P. Sloan, its famed strategist before and after World War II, who molded the company's separately acquired divisions into an orderly ladder extending from Chevrolets up to Cadillacs.

Philip K. Murtaugh, the chairman and chief executive of the G.M. China Group, said that G.M. planned to introduce the Cadillac brand to the Chinese market early next year.

He declined to say which models would be sold and whether they would be produced domestically or imported, or even whether vehicles would be available for sale when the advertising begins. Other auto industry officials have predicted that G.M. will start with the Cadillac CTS, the least expensive of its sedans in the American market.

Mr. Murtaugh said that G.M. sold 267,000 vehicles in the first nine months of this year, compared with 260,000 in all of last year.

The Chevrolet division has already made a small foray into the Chinese market by producing small numbers of Blazer sport utility vehicles and S-10 pickup trucks, which share a common underbody, at a joint venture with the Shenyang Jinbei Automotive Company in Liaoning Province in northeastern China. That joint venture has had weak marketing, however, and Mr. Murtaugh described it as ''a troubled operation."

G.M.'s Buick production is done here through a joint venture, Shanghai G.M., with the Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation, known as S.A.I.C. Chen Hong, the vice president of S.A.I.C. and the president of Shanghai G.M., said that S.A.I.C. was in talks with Liaoning Province, which owns Shenyang Jinbei; officials of the province have said that they are interested in selling the automaker. Mr. Chen declined to elaborate.

The next marketing step will be to introduce late next year the Chevrolet Spark, a very small car based on the Daewoo Matisse, which sells for about $6,000 in South Korea and is not sold in the United States.

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