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GM introduces right-hand drive Cadillac Seville in Japan

October 21, 1997

TOKYO (AP) _ General Motors Corp. premiered a right-hand drive version of its Cadillac Seville today, the first American-made luxury car specially made for Japanese drivers.

The Seville, built in the Detroit-Hamtramck plant, has the steering wheel on the right for driving on the left side of roads.

GM has its eyes on the entire Asian market, including China, Thailand, as well as Australia. The Seville is a key part of its strategy.

Prices will range from about $43,600 for the SLS model to $49,600 for the Seville STS with more horsepower. Both are cheaper than the Toyota Lexus, sold as the Celsior in Japan for about $62,000.

GM, which introduced a right-hand drive Seville for the European market last month, hopes to increase the portion of Sevilles it sells outside the United States from 5 percent to more than 20 percent over the next several years. The No. 1 U.S. automaker expects the world luxury car market to grow from 3 million to 4 million vehicles in the next five years.

GM officials were optimistic about the Japanese market, despite a weaker yen and the lagging economy.

GM controlled 40 percent of the Japanese market in the late 1920s and 1930s before Japanese automakers took over, GM chairman and chief executive Jack Smith said in Tokyo, where the Seville was unveiled to the beat of Japanese ``taiko″ drumming.

``It took us a long time to re-establish ourselves in Japan,″ Smith said. ``Today, we are definitely back, and back to stay,″

James Hall, auto analyst with AutoPacific, a consulting firm based in Santa Ana, Calif., said GM wasn’t expecting quick profits.

``This is the first time the modern Cadillac is trying to retail cars in Japan. They’re starting from zero,″ Hall said by telephone. ``You have to have commitment, and for commitment you have to have time.″

The Seville geared for the Japanese market is about 5 inches shorter than the American version, and has outside rear mirrors that fold by remote control for maneuvering through narrow streets, as well as gas pedals and brakes designed for shorter Japanese. The cars will hit Japanese showrooms in February.

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