GM unveils first model of new China car brand

General Motors unveiled the first model of its new car brand aimed specifically at China on Monday, aiming to strengthen its sales lead in the world's top auto market by wooing middle-class drivers.

The Baojun 630, an affordable yet sporty 1.5-litre-engine sedan, has been produced by GM and its partners Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation Group and Wuling Motors and was unveiled ahead of this week's Shanghai Auto Show.

"GM is proud to be introducing our newest brand to the people of China," said Kevin Wale, president and managing director of the GM China Group.

"The Baojun 630 will address the growing demand across the country for affordable personal transportation."

The compact sedan will be priced between $10,000 and $15,000, Wales said.

It was designed for young drivers in China's second- and third-tier cities in the country's vast interior, which are home to tens of millions of people with growing buying power.

Having already conquered China's coastal areas and first-tier cities such as Beijing and Shangahi, carmakers are increasingly looking inland to extend their phenomenal growth in a market that saw sales rise more than 32 percent to 18.06 million units last year.

China overtook the United States as the world's top car market in 2009. GM is the leading foreign automaker in the country as measured by sales.

Baojun, whose name translates to "treasured horse", will go on sale later this month through a network of 150 dedicated dealerships across the country.

The number of dealerships is expected to double by the end of the year, GM said in a statement.

Matthew Tsien, vice president of the SAIC-GM-Wuling (SGMW) joint venture, said several further models under the Baojun nameplate were in development. The new brand was first announced last year.

Analysts remain bullish about the market's prospects, as the number of car owners is still relatively small compared with the country's massive population of more than 1.3 billion.

The Shanghai Auto Show opens to the media on Tuesday.

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