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Korean show uncovers Holden’s latest export deal - and crucial cars for Oz

11 Apr 2007

GM HOLDEN has signed another multi-million-dollar export deal, resurrecting a program with GM Daewoo in South Korea with the 2008 L4X prestige sedan shown in near-production form at last week’s Seoul Motor Show.

Providing some respite for Holden amid the continuing domestic slump of Australian-built large-car sales – and at a time when exporters are hurting under the strongest Australian dollar in more than a decade – the lucrative deal involves several thousand left-hand drive vehicles per annum based on the long-wheelbase WM Caprice.

Exact numbers are still to be confirmed, but Holden this week indicated that these would be in excess of the circa-2000 shipped to South Korea as a (WL-based) Daewoo Statesman in 2005.

The L4X is also believed to be the first of a number of new export vehicles for Holden in the region, with China poised to announce a Holden-based vehicle to replace the Buick Royaum this year.

As GM’s global product development vice-chairman Bob Lutz refused to comment in New York last week on GoAuto’s report that Holden was not developing a V12 engine for Cadillac – and would not elaborate on other potential Holden export deals to the US – Holden chairman Denny Mooney described the L4X program as "another example of General Motors’ ability to leverage its global resources to satisfy a local market need".

"GM Daewoo and its customers will benefit from GM Holden’s acknowledged expertise in developing and manufacturing rear-wheel drive vehicles," Mr Mooney said. "With our new VE and WM ranges, we designed and engineered them to appeal to both local and overseas markets.

"We are starting to see the returns from that with our Australian-built cars currently being exported to every continent except Antarctica."

171 center imageFrom top: Holden-built Daewoo L4X, Renault QMX, Kia KND-4, Hyundai Veloster and the SsangYong Wz (bottom).

"Exports of cars and engines continue to be a core component of GM Holden’s future strategy for growth, and today’s confirmation of new exports to Korea further expands our growing presence in overseas markets." As well as being assembled in Australia, the L4X will use the Port Melbourne-constructed 195kW 3.6-litre "High Output" Alloytec V6.

However, it will also be fitted with equipment currently unavailable on Australian models, including power-operated rear seats (with a back massage function), power rear-window curtains, roller blinds and a rear-view camera.

While the world’s motoring attention was trained on the New York International Auto Show late last week – particularly on Subaru’s new Impreza and facelifted Tribeca, the Lexus LX570 and Jeep’s new Cherokee and revised Grand Cherokee – across the North Pacific Ocean in Seoul there were a number of other important new vehicles.

Among them was the Daewoo G2X roadster – an Opel GT-based rear-drive convertible that uses a 194kW/353Nm 2.0-litre direct-injection turbocharged engine – believed to be under consideration for Australia.

Renault-Samsung also showed the Korean-built version (dubbed QMX, or Quest Motoring Xperience) of its forthcoming Koleos SUV. South Korea is almost certain to be the production source for Renault in Australia.

Hyundai gave us another pointer to its next-generation Tiburon sports coupe in the form of the Veloster (codenamed HND-3), along with a station wagon version of its forthcoming Elantra small-medium car (known as the FD overseas), and a new-generation H-1 van – a vehicle of particular interest given that Hyundai is now preparing to introduce a range of light commercial vehicles in Australia.

In production from August, the H-1 will be available overseas in various passenger and commercial van configurations and will use a Euro IV-compliant 2.5-litre CRDi turbo-diesel engine or a 2.4-litre "Theta" petrol engine. A Euro III-compliant version of the diesel will also be sold in certain export markets.

Sister brand Kia unveiled the KND-4 SUV concept, which is a "bold hint" at how future Kia compact SUV models will look. The question is whether Hyundai will also use the same design, as is currently the case with the Kia Sportage/Hyundai Tucson clones.

A 2.2-litre VGT diesel engine in the KND-4 drives all four wheels via the latest version of Hyundai-Kia’s "Active Torque Transfer" system.

And not to be outdone, SsangYong showed its Wz flagship sedan – another contender for Australian release and, thankfully, a marked departure from the "shark’s mouth" styling which has dominated new-generation vehicles such as the Actyon SUV and ute.

Interestingly, GM used the New York show as the theatre to point to its forthcoming new-generation Daewoo-designed and Korean-built micro cars.

The Chevrolet Beat, Groove and Trax concepts are expected to condense into a new Matiz hatchback and derivatives, which are also prospects for sale in Australia as entrants below, or alongside, the Daewoo-built Barina.

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