Under the new passenger car marque Baojun, launched last year, the three-way joint venture SAIC-GM-Wuling (SGMW) plans a near-complete product line: first a compact sedan, Baojun 630, to be released before April; then a subcompact to come out in the second half of 2011, to be followed a MPV and SUV. Recently leaked photos reveal the upcoming Baojun subcompact will be a rebaged first-generation Chevy Spark (Daewoo Matiz), locally built by SGMW.
To be distinguished from the current, third-generation Chevy Spark, which is sold in China as an imported model, the locally-built was renamed "Lechi" last December. Although decent, sales of the first generation Spark/Lechi have been shadowed by its notorious imitator, Chery QQ. Spark/Lechi may be of better quality than QQ, but is more expensive–starting at 43,800 Yuan versus QQ at 30,800 Yuan. The rebaging of Spark/Lechi as a Baojun is expected to lower costs and price tags, making it more attractive to economically minded consumers.
Also, the rebagding is seen as a way for GM to return a favor to Wuling just like what it did in allowing the latter to build Baojun 630 on an old platform for Buick Excelle. For years GM had gazed greedily at the Wuling microvan business and could not be satisfied until last month when Wuling finally sold it a 10% stake at a low price (GM currently owns 44% of SGMW, up from 34%, SAIC 50.1%, Wuling 5.9%).