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First look: Is this Holden's 4WD solution?

Show off: The Oto was a star of reborn GM Daewoo's Seoul motor show stand.

Daewoo unveils a concept off-roader which could become a Holden

21 Nov 2002


It has Daewoo badges on it right now, but this could be the solution to Holden's compact all-wheel drive dilemma.

It's the Oto and it was revealed yesterday at the Seoul motor show in Korea by newly-formed GM Daewoo.

That's the company created by General Motors out of the bankrupt Daewoo Motor Company in which Holden has the biggest shareholding - 42.1 per cent for a cost of $US251.

The Oto, along with a concept nine-seat people-mover called the Flex and the Lacetti small-medium sedan were the stars of GM Daewoo's first public appearance since the company was formed in October.

But while Lacetti will be here as the replacement for the Nubira around September 2003 and sold by Holden-owned GM Daewoo Australia, it's the Oto that Holden already has its eyes on for its own use.

Australia's number one vehicle seller is immensely frustrated by its lack of compact all-wheel drive options, particularly as vehicles like the Honda CR-V, Toyota RAV4 and Subaru Forester can sell more than 1000 per month.

GM Daewoo's need to bring this car to fruition is no less urgent, with the SUV market booming in Korea and virtually all its domestic rivals - Hyundai, Kia and Ssangyong - having entrants in the segment.

Holden boss Peter Hanenberger has already signalled a solution to the company's problem lies in developing a compact off-roader within the Asia-Pacific region which should arrive around 2005. It makes sense that the Oto will form the basis of this compact 4WD for Holden and GM Daewoo.

The intention appears to be that the two companies collaborate on engineering the car and develop their own styling themes over the top. Holden's big shareholding and Mr Hanenberger's position on the GM Daewoo board should help ensure this happens.

"The possibility of taking another car off it (a production Daewoo SUV) which would fit another brand such as Holden is obviously possible," conceded GM Daewoo president and ceo Nick Reilly. "But don't take that to mean we have definitely decided to do that.

"Assuming we went for an SUV we would be developing it essentially as a Daewoo for the Korean market and other Daewoo markets, so if we were to ever use it for something like a Holden then Holden would come in and their engineering would definitely be involved if we went to a derived car." The styling of the Oto is quite dramatic, GM Daewoo electing for a swoopy cross-over coupe look rather than the traditional wagon treatment prevalent among its Korean rivals. However a production car would definitely be a five-door.

"We are a latecomer so we really need to be creative," explained GM Daewoo engineering chief KJ Yu, "otherwise there is no way we reach the marketing share we want to get.

"With the Oto we are trying to retain the performance of a passenger car on-road plus the powerful off-road performance of an SUV." Oto sits on the platform of the mid-size Magnus sedan platform and is powered by the new 2.5-litre version of the XK all-aluminium inline six-cylinder engine, which produces 157kW at 5800rpm and 240Nm at 4000rpm.

GM Daewoo would probably build the car as both a two-wheel drive and four-wheel drive.

GM Daewoo issued few details on Oto, but Mr Yu did admit it was a development of DMC's 2001 Vada concept rather than being all-new. However, Oto's overall length of 4474mm, its 1897mm width, 1710mm height and 2650mm wheelbase are all bigger numbers than the Vada's.

The large vertical radiator grille is also a distinct new feature and the entire body looks less machined than the Vada.

Inside the cabin the Oto employs information technology systems and its five-seat layout is designed for maximum flexibility. It has its own form of "iDrive", with engine start-up, door opening and closing, operating audio-visual systems and a pop-up wide screen all operated by a single remote control.

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