COST AND competition forced General Motors to enter Europe's mini car segment by rebadging a new Suzuki model.
GM researched the market for nearly two years and decided the market would not be large enough to justify a new platform, said David Herman, chairman of Adam Opel AG.
He said GM considered two in-house options:
Shortening the platform of its smallest car, the Corsa
Basing a car on the Maxx concept, which used interchangeable body panels and interior modules.
He said high costs for each option would have required a higher annual production volume than the market would bear.
'That led us' to Suzuki, said Herman, 'the world's leading manufacturer in the small car segment.'
Suzuki developed the platform, which comes in left- and right-hand drive. GM and Suzuki will share body stampings, but cars will be built in separate factories with separate bumpers, taillights, interior trim, suspensions and powertrains.
GM will build the mini car and the previous-generation Opel Astra, now called the Astra Classic, at its new lean-production plant in Gliwice, Poland. The Astra Classic goes into production this fall.
Suzuki will build its version in Esztergom, Hungary, where it already produces the larger Swift.
GM will invest DM375 million ($212 million) to expand Gliwice's capacity to 150,000 units, 70,000 of which will be the new mini. In Hungary, Magyar Suzuki plans to invest about 20 billion yen ($145 million) to increase capacity to 100,000 units from the current 60,000 units.
Herman said Suzuki would also produce the GM version if demand justifies it. The partners expect GM will sell more units of the new car than Suzuki does, said Herman.
The GM mini car will be sold for about DM2,000 less than the Corsa, which starts at about DM20,000. 'It won't attack our current customer base,' said Herman. 'We want to attract customers from the used-car market.'
Initially, both carmakers plan to sell the new car only in Europe. Later, Suzuki will probably make it in Japan. GM is considering producing it in Latin America as a smaller alternative to the Blue Macaw, its stripped-down version of the Corsa.
GM owns 3.3 percent of Suzuki. They are partners in a joint venture in Canada that produces the Chevrolet Metro and Tracker for North American markets.