General Motors’ Australian unit Holden will export ‘Global’ V6 engines it makes at Holden Engines Company in Victoria to China, the automaker said on Thursday. Two versions of the V6 will be fitted in the new Chinese-designed Buick Park Avenue being built by Shanghai General Motors.

The new engine export programme is expected to be worth several hundred million dollars to GM Holden over the next few years, GMH said in a statement, without elaborating.

The Buick Park Avenue, unveiled in Shanghai on Wednesday night, will use both the 3.6-litre V6 engine already used in a number of GM models in the US, and in Holden’s own locally-built Commodore, and a unique 2.8-litre version.

The new Buick – which will be built at Shanghai GM’s Jinqiao plant – is the first vehicle to go into production outside Australia utilising the global rear-wheel drive architecture developed by Holden, initially for its latest Commodore model line launched last year.

The Chinese model will have an exterior based on Holden’s Statesman (a stretched, more luxurious derivative of the Commodore) with an interior completely redesigned by GM China to suit the local market where buyers of such cars normally employ chauffeurs.

Consequently, Holden’s specialist rear wheel drive engineering expertise has been used to re-engineer the car as a luxury limousine for rear seat passengers as distinct from the sports luxury, driver-orientated vehicle produced in Australia for domestic and export markets – Statesman variants also go to the Middle East badged as Chevrolets.

GM Holden chairman and managing director Denny Mooney said: “The Buick Park Avenue is another exciting step in the worldwide adoption of the global rear-wheel drive architecture developed here in Australia and is a valuable export programme for GM Holden in the world’s fastest growing auto market.”

“Our engine export programme generated over $A570m in revenue in 2006 alone and this will be a further boost to this key area of our business. With today’s announcement of these engine exports to Shanghai GM, our engine production plant in Victoria is supplying customers in markets as diverse as Italy, South Korea, Germany, Thailand, South Africa, Sweden and China.

“Australia’s role in the forthcoming Chevrolet Camaro for the US market, and now the Buick Park Avenue for China, underlines how Australian design and engineering expertise is playing a lead role in General Motor’s worldwide vehicle production.”

GM China has previously imported Holden’s top models for sale under the Buick brand.

Separately, Shanghai General Motors (Shanghai GM) said the Park Avenue – which introduces a nameplate well known in the US market to China – is the first vehicle available in Asia using GM’s new global rear-wheel-drive architecture.

The Holden Statesman-based car is 5,175mm long, 1,899mm wide and 1,480mm high on a 3,009mm wheelbase. The cabin’s leather seats are designed to accommodate people of varying sizes with eight-way power adjustment for the front seats while all seats incorporate a massage function.

A top entertainment system with LCD display panels and an advanced heating, ventilation and air conditioning system are standard along with a GPS navigation system containing road information for more than 300 cities in China. A Bluetooth mobile phone system is also available.

The remote engine start (RES) system lets the driver start the engine up to 20 minutes in advance within 60 metres and can also adjust the temperature inside the car.

Shanghai GM is offering five Park Avenue variants priced from RMB 328,800 to 498,800 ($US42,600-64,600).

According to US website (TCC), GM last sold more Buick-badged products in China than it did in the US, and the automaker expects the gap to widen, barring a sudden turnaround in the American market, or an equally unexpected downturn in the emerging Asian market.

“Ironically,” a GM source told TCC, “Chinese consumers see Buick the way we only wish American buyers would, as a truly competitive luxury brand.”