Baojun's first model, the 630, on display at an auto show in April. It plans to next produce the Lechi minicar in the city of Liuzhou. Da Wei / For China Daily
Moving to further tap the entry-level car market in China, General Motor's minivan joint venture in the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region recently opened a new plant to produce passenger cars under the Baojun brand.
The three-way joint venture between GM, SAIC Motor Corp and Wuling Motors based in the city of Liuzhou invested 8 billion yuan in the new facility, which has a designed capacity of 400,000 cars a year.
The joint venture also broke ground on a new passenger vehicle R&D center near the new plant. An affiliated plant with designed yearly production capacity of 400,000 engines is currently under construction and will be operational next September.
The venture will produce the Baojun 630 compact and Lechi minicar - known before as the Chevrolet Spark - at the new facility. Both models were produced on the same production lines that make Wuling minivans.
Established 10 years ago, SAIC-GM-Wuling has grown to be the country's biggest minivan producer, with more than half of the national market in the segment.
In the first 10 months of the year, Wuling-brand mini commercial vehicles sold 1.2 million units. The full-year figure is expected to surpass 1.4 million.
The Baojun brand was created by the joint venture in 2010 to build inexpensive, entry-level passenger cars for first-time buyers.
Its 630, the first model produced by the brand, went on sale in August last year. Since the launch, the car's sales have surpassed 80,000 units, with monthly sales sometimes exceeding 9,000 units.
Now with only two models, the Baojun lineup will expand to cover segments from small cars to SUVs and MPVs, said the company.
With the new Baojun plant now operational, the joint venture has a combined production capacity of about 1.7 million vehicles a year.
In addition to existing facilities in Liuzhou and Qingdao in East China's Shandong province, it is looking for a new production site in central or western China to boost its annual production to 2 million by the end of 2015.
The joint venture has about 3,800 dealerships across the country, a network that covers about 90 percent of the cities and more than half of the counties in the nation.
It now has more than 260 Baojun outlets, with the number scheduled to increase to 300 by the end of the year and to 350 in 2013.
(China Daily 11/26/2012 page18)