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Beijing Auto releases first Saab-based model ahead of listing

Bloomberg News (London) - Beijing Automotive Group Co., which makes vehicles with Daimler AG and Hyundai Motor Co., started selling its first sedan based on Saab technology today as it prepares to list its BAIC Motor Corp. unit in Hong Kong.

The Senova, with a 2-liter engine and a starting price of 139,800 yuan ($22,762), is the company's first car developed using the technology it bought from Saab Automobile in 2009, Han Yonggui, president of BAIC Motor, said in an interview in Beijing today. It is also the company's first self-developed medium-to-high-end model car, he said.

Beijing Automotive, known as BAIC, has said it plans to make "world-class" cars by 2025 and hired Ferrari designer Leonardo Fiorvanati to improve its brand appeal. The company is seeking an initial public offering in Hong Kong as early as this year to help expand vehicle sales more than 70 percent by 2015 from a target of 2.1 million units this year, Chairman Xu Heyi said in March.

"Adding the Senova to our product lineup will boost investors' confidence," Han said today. "It will help our efforts to sell shares in Hong Kong in line with our schedule," he said without giving a time frame.

State-owned BAIC hired actor Nicolas Cage as brand ambassador to help promote the Senova D series. The 49-year-old Academy Award winner will appear in a television commercial to be aired this month, the company said.

The company will also benefit from government measures to promote domestic brands in official fleets, Liang Guofeng, vice president of BAIC Motor, told reporters today. "This is a great opportunity for us; we've got to get a slice of the official fleets," he said.

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