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The Roewe 550 comes into its own
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SAIC Motor Corp yesterday launched its first self-developed mid-class sedan, the Roewe 550, in Shanghai as it tries to challenge overseas rivals in the most competitive market segment in China.

The model also underscored SAIC's efforts to speed up the development of its self-owned models, combining research and development efforts at home and abroad.

Unlike its first model Roewe 750, the nation's largest car maker said the Roewe 550 was developed from a brand new platform that it developed entirely on its own after pumping more than 1 billion yuan (US$145.4 million) in building its own R&D expertise.

"The introduction of Roewe 550 is a landmark step in SAIC's development of self-branded models, and also marks the increased capability of independent research and development," said Hu Maoyuan, chairman of Shanghai Automobile Industry Corp, parent of SAIC Motor.

The Roewe 550 model is expected to take on Toyota's Corolla, Ford's Focus, Volkswagen's Sagitar and Honda's Civic in the fast-expanding mid-class car segment. The car, which is equipped with a 1.8-liter turbo engine and comes in five versions, will cost from 142,800 yuan to 189,800 yuan.

SAIC is also reportedly to hold talks with Germany's Karmann about assembling the Roewe 550 in Europe.

SAIC, the Chinese partner of General Motors and Volkswagen, established the Roewe brand in 2006 as the Chinese central government encouraged major domestic auto makers to roll out more self-branded models to revive its own auto industry and pave the way toward building a global name.

SAIC plans to roll out more than 30 new self-owned models by the end of 2010.

(Shanghai Daily June 20, 2008)

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