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Daewoo in uptown upsurge

Magnus opus: The Daewoo Magnus will replace the flagship Leganza next year.

Daewoo takes on its Japanese rivals by shifting its marque upmarket

25 Sep 2000

DAEWOO Fplans to follow the example of Hyundai by shifting the marque upmarket from its bargain-basement origins. "We want to tackle the Japanese (manufacturers)," Daewoo Automotive Australia managing director Mr Young-Tai Song said. The South Korean car-maker currently derives about half its annual sales from the budget-priced Lanos but Daewoo is keen to add more up-spec models to the sales mix. Daewoo will supplement its line-up in late October with the Tacuma compact people-mover, expected to be priced around $25,000. Based on the same platform as the Nubira, the Tacuma offers appreciably more interior space thanks to its tall stance and wagon-like rear end. It is expected to be well equipped with air-conditioning, remote central locking, power windows and possibly dual airbags and anti-lock brakes among its standard features. Australian-spec Tacumas are expected to use the same 2.0-litre engine as the Nubira, generating 98kW and 185Nm. A key new entrant for Daewoo will be the Magnus, which replaces the flagship Leganza in the first half of 2001. The Magnus uses a completely different platform to the ItalDesign-styled Leganza and is closer in size to the Toyota Camry. Unlike the Leganza, which is offered only with a Holden-sourced 2.2-litre Family II engine, the Magnus will be available with the choice of 2.0-litre, four-cylinder or 2.5-litre V6 powerplants. Both units are among a new breed of engines designed by Daewoo. Further down the track, all-new replacements for the Lanos and Nubira are due in 2002, along with a successor to the slow-selling Musso off-roader. Mr Song says the new Musso will be larger than the current vehicle and offer seating for seven. A compact off-roader to tackle the Honda CR-V is also in the pipeline. Mr Song suggests Daewoo is on track to record around 25,000 sales this year, compared with 21,517 in 1999. "We hope to top 30,000 sales in 2001," he says. Bidding to re-open
DAEWOO insiders suggest General Motors and DaimlerChrysler will be invited to re-open the bidding process for the debt-ridden car-maker following Ford's decision not to pursue its original $US6.9 billion offer. In June Ford defeated joint bids by GM/Fiat and DaimlerChrysler/Hyundai Motor for the right to conduct exclusive negotiations with Daewoo about taking over its assets. But mounting losses and militant unions are believed to have deterred the world's No 2 car-maker. Nevertheless, Daewoo Motor's creditors remain committed to finding a buyer for the company. "Daewoo will send a letter to General Motors and DaimlerChrysler to invite bids," a senior company official said. GM is regarded as the more suitable candidate as it was allied with Daewoo in the past and still uses many of the systems and codes as the Asian car-maker. "General Motors continues to be interested in Daewoo Motor," GM's Asia-Pacific assistant director for corporate communications, Mr Rene Kreis, said. "But we need more time to understand the situation better." He refused to comment on a Financial Times newspaper report that said GM and partner Fiat SpA had rejected demands from Daewoo Motor's main creditor urging them to submit a binding takeover bid for the South Korean automaker. "We cannot comment on such speculative stories as the one in the Financial Times," Mr Kreis said.

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