Shanghai-General Motors has announced the latest model in its internationally-sourced product portfolio.

The new Buick Royaum is based on GM Australian unit Holden's Statesman and Caprice luxury models and joins the South American-designed Sail sedan and wagon (based on the previous generation Opel Corsa), South Korean Excelle (based on GM-Daewoo's Nubira/Lacetti) and US-designed Buick Regal sedan and GL8 minivan.

The Buick brand was chosen for the Holden models because it represents the most popular GM brand in the Chinese market. The word Royaum is based on a French word which reflects the Chinese words 'Rong', meaning sense of duty, and 'Yu', representing high social position and authority.

The Royaum will initially be sold in China with the new Holden-made 'Alloytec' 3.6-litre V6 engine from GM's new 'global' engine programme. Australia is one of two sources for these motors. A 2.8-litre version is being developed for China as well as for another Statesman/Caprice derivative that will top the Daewoo range in South Korea from early 2005.

The latest Chinese Buick will initially be available in March in more than 20 Chinese cities including Beijing, Guangzhou, Shanghai and Shenzhen then progressively introduced nationally through more than 250 Buick dealers. It will compete with models such as Audi's locally-produced A6 and Nissan's newly-launched Teana.

GM has not released sales forecasts.

China is Holden's sixth export programme in the Asia-Pacific region joining South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and New Zealand.

Built on a longer wheelbase than Holden's staple Commodore, the big Statesman/Caprice line is known for its generous rear passenger space. In China, the Buick Royaum derivative will be targeted at rear seat passengers such as Chinese government officials and business heads.

The export deal is the result of four years of strategic research and discussion with Chinese automotive executives, including a range of product clinics in 2000 and detailed customer focus groups earlier this year.

Holden chairman and managing director Denny Mooney said he believed the Buick luxury cars would strike a chord in a market in which rear seat passengers, rather than the drivers, were the target audience.

"The Statesman and Caprice have a deserved reputation in Australia and the Middle East as the benchmark sedans for executives spending their time in the back of the car," Mooney said.

"Holden's Chinese programme will add to the diversity of our exports and maximise flexibility to manage changes in demands in various markets. Holden has a responsibility within GM to ensure that specific market needs and quality expectations are met and programs such as the Buick Royaum reinforce that responsibility."

Shanghai GM executive vice president, Chris Gubbey, said the new model would further enhance the brand image of Buick in the Chinese marketplace and break fresh ground by offering an ideal executive-level luxury sedan to Chinese 'elites'.

"This launch again proves the advantages in Shanghai GM in leveraging and integrating GM resources for the Chinese market and meeting local demands from an international array of choices," he added.

Holden noted that China is now the world's third largest car market at 4.6 million units in 2003, behind only the United States and Japan. China overtook Germany in 2003 and has enjoyed average annual growth of 21.8% in the five years to 2003.

The Royaum was launched on the sixth anniversary of the start of Buick production in China at Shanghai GM's Jinqiao plant.