General Motors do Brasil has launched a sedan called the ‘new Vectra’ as its top Brazilian-made model but, despite the name, the new car is not the third generation Opel-designed European Vectra (sold worldwide as an Opel, Vauxhall, Holden and Chevrolet).

The new car was developed in Brazil on the platform of the locally-built Zafira minivan model – stretched previous-generation Astra underpinnings – to reduce production costs.

GM spent about $US190 million developing the new car which is assembled in its São Caetano do Sul plant, in São Paulo state, where the previous-generation European-design Vectra was made.

A product of GM’s Brazilian design centre, the new Vectra shares windscreen and front doors with the latest European-made Astra (built mainly in Belgium and England and also a global export car).

“[The new Vectra] is a car with innovative style and high technology, but its costs are compatible with Brazilian reality”, said General Motors do Brasil president Ray Young.

The Brazilian-made sedan is the same length (4,618mm) and on the same 2,703mm wheelbase as the current European Vectra but is 70mm narrower. The 526-litre luggage compartment is six litres roomier than the German-made car.

Brazilian buyers are offered two flex-fuel engines. One is the two-litre eight-valve engine from the Brazilian-made Astra and Zafira ranges and, in the Vectra, power varies between 121hp and 127hp depending on the fuel.

The other engine is a new 2.4-litre 16-valve unit that develops 150hp on alcohol [cheers!] and 146hp on petrol.

GM expects to sell about 13,500 units in Brazil by the end of the year and took orders for 4,200 during a one month ‘you can look but you can’t drive it’ pre-launch sales campaign targeted at selected consumer groups.

The 2006 sales target is 37,000 units and key local competitors are the Toyota Camry, Honda Accord, Ford Mondeo and Citroën C5.

GM has specified the car for export to other Latin America countries but an insider told just-auto it would wait for the government to act over the rising value of Brazilian currency against the dollar before finalising any deals.

GM has blamed the growth of the Brazilian real for slowing export sales and has recently reduced the number of cars it ships.

Rogério Louro