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Kia mini, Hummer Assembly, and more...

Kia to debut new mini at Frankfurt

 This mini KIA will compete in Europe’s A-segment.
Kia Motors is set to unveil its first A-segment car at this month’s Frankfurt auto show. The company, which has yet to announce the vehicle’s name, is hoping to be a viable competitor in Europe’s largest segment.

The car has five doors and is available in both a four-seat or five-seat version. It comes equipped with either a 1.0L or 1.1L engine and with either a five-speed manual or four-speed automatic transmission. A diesel version is set to bow in 2005.

The vehicle will be built on contract at Donghee Auto Co. in Suhsan, Korea, which is located near Kia’s Hwasung plant. Some 150,000 units will be built each year with 88,000 exported.

Kia expects the vehicle to be popular with Europe’s 18-25 year old customers. The automaker has said it would like to triple its sales in Europe by 2005 with young buyers key to that goal.

Other debuts at Frankfurt include:

  • BMW will introduce its 6-series coupe, X3 SUV and updated X5. The 5-series makes its auto show debut.
  • Mitsubishi unveils its Grandis multi-purpose vehicle, which is set to go on sale in firsthalf 2004. The company will also show an Asegment concept.
  • Saab launches its Sport-Hatch concept car. The vehicle is a sporty, five-door four seat hatchback vehicle. The company says it is a crossover between a hatchback and a station wagon.
  • The Nissan Dunehawk concept hints at Nissan’s SUV future, says the company.
  • VW publicly shows its new Golf for the first time at the auto show.
  • Opel will introduce its new all-important Astra at the show.

Hummer Assembly set for Russia

Russian-built Hummer H2s will join the luxury car market.
General Motors has signed an agreement with Russian automaker, Avtotar, to begin assembly of the Hummer H2 for the local market.

Avtotar, which currently assembles Kia and BMW vehicles, will assemble 200 to 400 of the vehicles each year at its facility in Kaliningrad, in Western Russia near Lithuania and Poland. All components will come from the U.S.

GM reportedly hopes the vehicle will become popular with the growing segment of wealthy Russian businessmen who purchase luxury imports. The vehicle is expected to sell for $85,000 to $110,000. It will be available in yellow, orange and black and is expected to go on sale later this fall.

The H2 will not be exported into other parts of Eastern Europe. Currently the large SUV is sold in some parts of Western Europe through GM importers.

GM currently builds the Chevy Niva in Togliatti in a joint venture with Russia’s largest automaker, AvtoVAZ. Opel Astra production is expected to begin at the JV in the near future.

Ford Exec in talks with Fiat

Fiat SpA is reportedly in talks with former Ford Motor Co. European executive Martin Leach about joining the company as chief executive of its auto operations. A noncompete agreement Leach has with Ford is expected to slow the move. Leach resigned from Ford’s European operations in mid- August. Current Fiat Auto CEO Giancarlo Boschetti is expected to step down from the position and retire next year.

VW Brazil names new vehicle

Volkswagen AG’s Brazilian division says it will name its newest car the Fox. The company passed over several other names including Tupi — a Brazilian native tribe. The vehicle, which will be built in Brazil, is expected to be exported. VW said the Fox name can be used in any country around the world without being changed. Exports are now key to Brazilian automakers who have seen the local market slump during the last several years.

GM increases capacity in Shanghai

General Motors Corp. says it added an additional shift in Shanghai to meet rising demand for cars in China. The move increased capacity by 50 percent and vehicle output from 12,000 to 18,000 vehicles a month. The plant now runs on three shifts. GM also is launching its new Buick Excelle sedan this month. The vehicle will compete in the lower-medium segment and will be available in 1.6L and 1.8L versions. The company expects to build about 35,000 this year.

Guangzhou, Toyota reach deal on JV

China’s Guangzhou Automobile Group Co. and Japan’s Toyota Motor Corp. have reportedly reached an agreement on building cars together in China. According to a local newspaper, the two companies will build a new plant in Guangzhou City to build mid-size cars starting in 2005. The JV will produce about 30,000 vehicles a year. Toyota may formalize the project with its vice presidents by the end of the month. The automaker hopes to finalize the project by the end of 2003.

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