July 15, 2009 / 5:08 PM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 2-GM to spend $1 bln in Brazil on new family of cars

 * GM to invest $1 bln in Brazil through 2012
 * Cash is part of $2.5 bln investment plan started in 2007
 * Automaker to expand capacity at Gravatai plant
(Adds GM quotes)
 By Ana Nicolaci da Costa
 BRASILIA, July 15 (Reuters) - General Motors unveiled plans
on Wednesday to spend about $1 billion in Brazil through 2012
to develop a new family of vehicles for South America, a
priority market for the U.S. automaker as it looks to rebound
from bankruptcy protection.
 GM plans to invest the bulk of the money at its Gravatai
factory in the southern state of Rio Grande do Sul, which it
will expand to increase production capacity, Jaime Ardila, GM's
chief executive for Brazil and the Mercosur region of South
America, said in a statement.
 The investment, which in Brazilian currency amounts to 2
billion reais ($1.02 billion), is part of a $2.5 billion
spending plan that began in 2007 and runs through 2012 in the
Mercosur region that includes Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and
 The investment would boost GM's capacity in Brazil to a
little over 1 million units a year, Ardila told a news
conference in Brasilia. GM's production capacity in Brazil is
currently between 800,000 to 900,000 units annually, he said.
 "We believe the Brazilian market will be very strong, will
continue to grow at a rate of at least 5 percent a year and we
also believe in the prospects for exports of the new models,"
Ardila said.
 The new models would be aimed at the domestic market,
exports to Mercosur countries. GM is also considering exporting
to other countries such as South Africa, Ardila said.
 At least 50 percent of the investment funds would come from
GM in Brazil and the remainder from state banks, Ardila said.
 GM has already secured a credit line of 344 million reais
from local bank Banrisul, and is in talks with two other
Brazilian banks, including state development bank BNDES, the
statement said.
 GM made the announcement after Ardila met in Brasilia with
President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, a former metalworker who
cut his political teeth in the late 1970s as a union leader
representing auto workers in Sao Paulo's industrial hub.
 The plan calls for spending 1.4 billion reais to develop
two new compact models under the Chevrolet brand and boost
production at GM's Gravatai plant to 380,000 vehicles a year,
three times its current capacity.
 "It will become the biggest and most important GM factory
in Brazil and in the Mercosur countries," Ardila added.
 The remaining 600 million reais will be spent at GM's
operations elsewhere in Brazil, the company said in a statement
without elaborating.
 Brazil, Latin America's largest country, has emerged as a
crucial market for GM in recent years thanks to a healthy
economy and burgeoning credit market that have allowed millions
of Brazilians to buy cars for the first time.
 The U.S. automaker had its best year ever in Brazil in 2008
and is making a profit so far in 2009 despite an economic
slowdown that has forced manufacturers to cut costs, Ardila
said on June 2.
 GM emerged from bankruptcy protection in the United States
last week as a much leaner automaker after selling key
operations to a new company majority-owned by the U.S.
government. The restructuring gave the U.S. Treasury a 60
percent stake in the new GM.
 ($1=1.95 reais)
 (Reporting by Ana Nicolaci da Costa, Writing by Todd Benson,
Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)

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