Suzuki Motor Corp. and General Motors Corp. on Friday hailed their global strategic alliance and confirmed that Suzuki will begin manufacturing from the fall a new compact car jointly developed by the two automakers.

GM Chairman John F. Smith Jr., who was appointed as a board member of Suzuki at its shareholders’ meeting Thursday, said the vehicle will be the first of a series of products jointly developed by the two automakers.

The 1.3-liter compact car Chevrolet Cruze, to be manufactured at Suzuki’s Kosai plant in Shizuoka Prefecture, is the first vehicle GM will manufacture in Japan, the automakers said.

It is also GM’s first car manufactured in Asia for the regional market, and will initially be sold in Japan by yearend through Suzuki and GM’s distribution channels, they said. The car will also be marketed in Australia from 2002, they added.

Rudolph A. Schlais Jr., vice president of GM Group and president and CEO of GM Asia Pacific, said GM wants to be regarded as a vehicle company in Japan, admitting that the automaker has expressed interest in becoming a member of the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.

“The (JAMA) bylaws have defined that, the Cruze, when it goes into production, would qualify GM to become a member,” he said, adding that the the automaker is in the process of discussions with JAMA.

Smith said GM will build new Suzuki products at its facilities in Latin America and the two will jointly develop a new vehicle marketed under both the Suzuki and GM brands.

Smith said the two parties are considering collaborating with Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd. and Italian automaker Fiat Auto SpA, which are also alliance partners with GM.

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