SEOUL - Daewoo has launched the Matiz, its entry in Europe's growing mini car segment.
Daewoo marketing executives say the Matiz will compete directly with the Fiat Seicento, Hyundai Atos, Seat Arosa and Volkswagen Lupo. The Lupo is scheduled for a launch later this year.
The Matiz is planned as a world car. Global production is expected to reach 400,000 units a year in five countries.
Italian dealers will get the car this month. The other main European markets will follow quickly. The right-hand-drive version will arrive in the UK in June.
All Matiz models sold in western Europe will come from Changwon, South Korea initially. Production will spread to Poland, Romania and India later this year. Ukraine will be added later.
In Poland, the Matiz will replace Daewoo's existing Tico city car, which is based on the Suzuki Alto. But Tico production will continue in Uzbekistan and in Korea, where it will be marketed as an entry-level vehicle.
Changwon will build 140,000 units a year of the Matiz. The Matiz's predecessor, the Tico, will stay in production for at least five years. The Matiz has a separate production line, previously used for the old Cielo/Nexia range.
The Matiz took 29 months to develop from design freeze, at a cost of about $180 million. Most of the engineering work was carried out at Daewoo's technical center at Worthing, UK.
The first clay model was built in September 1995 and the first prototype was running by July 1996.
Most testing was done in the UK, mainly at the Millbrook proving ground.
The Matiz was styled by Italdesign's Fabrizio Giugiaro.
Daewoo Chairman Kim Woo-choong said that simultaneous engineering accelerated the development process.
'By receiving supplier input at the design, engineering and production stages,' he said, 'Daewoo was able to attain the highest level of quality while at the same time keeping a tight rein on costs.'
General Motors' Delphi Automotive supplied the braking system; AlliedSignal, the airbag system; LucasVarity, much of the ABS; and TRW provided seat belt pre-tensioners.
The three-cylinder, 800cc engine is carried over from the Tico. However, UK engine specialist Tickford has adapted the engine and increased its maximum output from 41hp at 5,500rpm to 52hp at 6,000rpm.
Daewoo is developing an all-new 1.0-liter engine in Germany as part of a family of modular aluminum engines.