During a visit to Brazil, Rick Wagoner, chairman and CEO of General Motors, announced that the company will invest about $US190 million there this year to produce a sedan dubbed the 'new Vectra'. The vehicle will be made at GM's São Caetano do Sul plant, in São Paulo state, by the end of 2005.

In despite of its name, the new Brazilian-made GM vehicle is not the latest third-generation European Vectra. GM of Brazil would not comment, but suppliers told just-auto.com that the model will be a sedan version of the new European Astra, very similiar to the concept Saturn Aura shown at the Detroit motor show last January.

GM Europe used to build a sedan version of the previous generation Astra but the redesigned range sold in the UK has so far included only three hatchback and wagon body styles.

The new Brazilian Astra sedan will have less sophisticated technology than the European Astra to reduce costs.

GM's strategy here is to keep the current locally-made previous generation Astra in production (with a facelift) while building on the charisma of the Vectra badge locally.

The "new Vectra" will replace the current Brazil-made second generation Vectra (introduced in the mid-90s), sales of which have fallen in the last years.

The new Vectra sedan will be GM Brazil's top model while the present Astra will become an entry level model in the same segment.

Rick Wagoner was visiting Brazil to join in celebrations of GM's 80 years there.

Last year, for the first time in its history, GM was top automaker, selling 364,214 cars and light commercials to beat Volkswagen, which also sells trucks and buses and shifted 353,857 units.

Volkswagen first lost leadership of passenger car and light commercial sales in 2002 (to Fiat) but 2004 was the first year since the 1960s it was beaten in total vehicle sales.

Rogério Louro