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Subaru, GM unveil first new alliance vehicle

TOKYO — Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., maker of Subaru vehicles, and General Motors last week showcased the first vehicle from their alliance for the Japanese market: a rebadged Opel Zafira minivan built in Thailand.

The seven-seat vehicle, named the Traviq, expands Subaru’s lineup, which had lacked a minivan seating more than five, while helping to boost capacity utilization at GM’s plant in Rayong, Thailand. The plant, which has an annual capacity of 130,000, will increase production immediately to more than 60,000 units annually from the current 50,000 to 55,000.

Fuji, of which GM owns 20 percent, has targeted sales of 1,000 Traviqs a month. The Traviq is powered by a 2.2-liter engine, compared with a 1.8-liter engine in the Zafira, and is equipped with a modified transmission that features smooth gear changes in the low-speed ranges.

The Traviq price starts at 1.99 million, or about $16,580 at current exchange rates. In contrast, the Opel Zafira is priced here at 2.9 million, or about $24,000.

Koji Endo, senior auto analyst at Credit Suisse First Boston Japan Inc. in Tokyo, questioned Subaru’s sales target for the rebadged minivan.

“For a model that’s been supplied by another foreign automaker, 1,000 sales a month sounds very aggressive,” Endo told Bloomberg News.

The Traviq will compete with the Honda Odyssey and Stream, Toyota’s Ipsum and Mazda’s Premacy. Subaru and GM are discussing whether they will add an all-wheel-drive version to the lineup.

Fuji Heavy also plans to develop other vehicles, including a sport wagon, as well as a small car with alliance partner Suzuki Motor Corp.

In addition to its stake in Fuji, GM owns 20 percent of Suzuki and 49 percent of Isuzu Motors Ltd.

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