General Motors will launch the Subaru Forester, a sports utility vehicle from Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd of Japan, for the Indian market in March this year.
The product will be imported from Japan as completely built unit (and marketed under the GM brand, company executives said on Thursday.
Fuji Heavy Industries, the maker of Subaru cars, is 20 per cent owned by General Motors Corporation, the US parent of GM Motors India.
Subaru and GM have been looking to expand their cooperation in product development, purchasing and sales around the globe, starting with a sales partnership in the Philippines and Indonesia since 2001. India is the next destination.
The Forester will be the first SUV to be launched by GM in India, and the first new vehicle to be launched by the company, in calendar 2003.
GM India national marketing manager Vinay Dixit said that the company will be launching additional three-four products during the year.
Work on the Forester project has begun. But I cannot comment on the other cars since we have not finalised the plans yet, he said. Dixit declined to give more details about the Forester project.
But sources said that in 2003, the company is targeting sales of around 500 units. From 2004 onwards, the numbers will be increased to 1,000 units a year. The vehicle will be priced close to Rs 20 lakh (Rs 2 million).
As per the arrangement between GM and Fuji, the Forester volumes in India will be considered a part of GM sales worldwide, rather than Fuji (Subaru) sales.
According to company sources, the recent launch of the premium sedan Vectra and the launch of the Subaru Forester is likely to delay the launch of the Isuzu Panther, a multi-purpose vehicle GM was planning to bring from the Isuzu stable this year.
Initially, the Panther would have been imported from one of the south-east Asian countries.
Fuji Heavy Industries said in Japan on Wednesday that it expects to sell 568,000 vehicles worldwide this calendar year, up 2.4 per cent from 2002, with a huge jump targeted in North America.
The automaker also said it would try to reverse a sharp fall in domestic sales by introducing the fourth-generation Legacy, its flagship model, by this summer.
The company also said it was expecting certain volumes from the fast growing' Indian market.
Several carmakers in India are targeting the SUV segment. Domestic vehicle maker Mahindra & Mahindra added a new dimension with the launch of the Scorpio.But companies such as Maruti Udyog, Hyundai and Ford are planning SUV launches in the near future. Only DaimlerChrysler has launched the Mercedes M-Class so far.