JAC plant cornerstone ceremony included burial of a J3 time capsule which will be exhumed in 20 years

JAC plant cornerstone ceremony included burial of a J3 'time capsule' which will be exhumed in 20 years

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At the same event, Grupo SHC president Sérgio Habib both launched the JAC J2 subcompact and held the cornerstone laying ceremony for its manufacturing plant in Camaçari, Bahia state.

Habib is well known here in Brazil for taking bold business risks. He bet on an unknown Chinese brand and set about changing from a mere importer of vehicles to a local manufacturer, along the way persuading JAC to increase its stake to 34% at a cost of BRL1.26bn/US$600m.

The 3,500 new direct jobs the plant will create compares with 10,000 at the Ford complex a few kilometres away which can build 300,000 units a year.

The JAC plant is due to be finished by the end of 2014 and will build the current J2 hatch and a successor to the J3 saloon plus an 'adventure' version of the hatch - a Brazil-specific development that raises ride height and adds wheelarch and sill extensions to make the car look like an offroad SUV, without the all-terrain ability. This version will styled by an Italian studio.

The cornerstone ceremony was modeled on one staged by the US city of Tulsa which buried a Plymouth Belvedere in 1957 and exhumed it, in a rather decayed state, 50 years later.

Habib buried one of the first J3s to land in Brazil for pre-launch evaluation with messages and contemporary items inside. He originally intended to dig up the 'time capsule' in 50 years but cut that to 20 at the request of state governor Jaques Wagner who wants to see the car again.

JAC made over 300 changes to sell the J2, its smallest and most affordable model, in Brazil. Power comes from a 1.33-litre/81.2 cu in/106bhp I4 in place of the one-litre/61cu in I3 in Chinese market versions.

One fully-equipped version is offered here for BRL30,990/US$14,700 with power windows all around, height-adjustable steering wheel, electric power steering and air conditioning.

It has rear park assist but shows signs of cost cutting in its absence of cables to raise the parcel shelf with the tailgate and a glove box lid.