General Motors Corp. expects a final decision on its proposed joint venture with China's Shanghai Automotive Industries Corp. by year's end, GM-China President Rudolph A. Schlais Jr. tells WAW.

The 50-50 joint venture was announced in October 1995 with what he calls "project registration" and has progressed to the point where the final step - approval of the feasibility study of the business case - is awaiting, government approval. After that, GM and SAIC will work on final contract terms.

Assuming no snags, production is still set to begin during the last quarter of 1998. "To make that happen" government approval is needed within the next two months or so, Mr. Schlais says, adding that the deal has widespread support from SAIC, the Ministry of Machinery and Industry and the State Planning Commission, which examines how it all fits together.

GM proposes producing the new-generation Buick Century and Regal models at an annual rate of about 100,000, with the chief focus on the Regal version for use as "executive" cars. That means basically a four-seater, with a posh layout for two rear passengers that includes special seating and rear-operated controls. Mr. Schlais says.

The Century version aims primarily at what he calls "institutional buyers" configured to carry six passengers in style. if not luxury. This segment includes government ministries, state-owned enterprises, foreign-owned enterprises and private limousine services.