General Motors’ Australian arm Holden has again switched the source of its long-running Barina entry-level model – this time from Europe to South Korea.

The fourth generation model is a rebadged version of GM-Daewoo’s Kalos which is now sold as a Chevrolet in most export markets but will be badged Holden in Australia and probably, though not yet confirmed, New Zealand.

Sold as the Chevrolet Aveo, the little car has done well in the US since launch in both hatchback and sedan form about 18 months ago. It is also destined for China, primarily in sedan form.

The first generation Barina, launched in the mid-1980s, was a rebadged Japanese-made Suzuki Swift. GM Europe’s Corsa – sourced mainly from Zaragoza, Spain – was used for generations two and three.

The latest Barina (nee Kalos) has a 77kW DOHC 1.6-litre engine and the choice of manual or automatic transmission and will be launched Down Under in December.

Driver and front passenger airbags, air conditioning, power steering, MP3-compatible sound system with CD player and steering wheel-mounted audio controls are standard.

Holden said its chassis engineers had carried out “an intensive development programme… to ensure local ride and handling expectations will be met”.

Holden, which now makes only its large V6-and V8-powered Commodore models locally, in Victoria state, has launched eight new car lines in the past four months, including the GM Europe-made Opel-designed Tigra hardtop convertible and the VIVA small car – the next size up from the Barina and also supplied by GM-Daewoo.

The company had earlier promised that 2005 would be its “year of the small car” as rising fuel prices and more congested roads lure buyers from the traditional ‘big Aussie six’ into smaller, more fuel-efficient models.

GM Holden chairman and managing director, Denny Mooney, said in a statement the company introduced such a large number of cars in such short time to build one of the newest and broadest ranges of four-cylinder cars of any manufacturer.

He added that Holden had determined to focus on small car strength in 2005, following the renewal of its light truck presence in 2003-2004 and prior to launching an all-new Commodore in 2006.

He said Holden remained Australia’s largest passenger car brand in 2005 and its small car strategy was designed to build on that leadership.

Sales and marketing chief Ross McKenzie said the four-cylinder focus in 2005 had already borne fruit with Holden light and small car sales up 38% in the year to August.

He added that the automaker’s four-cylinder strategy highlighted a growing split between value and premium buyers within the small car market and Holden could participate strongly in both areas.

“There is no question in my mind that these new cars are going to influence the structure of the light and small car market,” McKenzie said.

“Barina will enter what is currently a two-horse race in the light car market while Viva will join [the Opel-sourced] Astra, which is our second-strongest seller after Commodore, in the small car segment.

“It also means Korean and Japanese brands, taking advantage of exchange rates making it cheap to import their vehicles, will be challenged as we switch to similar sources for some of our small cars.”

Graeme Roberts