STUTTGART - Mitsubishi Fuso, the Japanese unit of market leader Daimler Trucks, aims to weatherproof the company for smaller volumes in the future in order to steer clear of the losses it will book this year.

We have to prepare ourselves for a longer downturn, Fuso Chief Executive Albert Kirchmann told reporters late on Wednesday in remarks embargoed for Thursday, adding he wants to ensure the company doesn't slide into the red every time a crisis breaks out.

After a boom last year, the Kawasaki-based company expects sales to halve to nearly 100,000 commercial vehicles in 2009.

In the future, Kirchmann expects its volumes to return only to a level of about 150,000 per year and plans to reposition Fuso around this level.

Daimler announced in May it would spend 35 billion yen ($393 million) on a comprehensive restructuring plan for Fuso designed to cut its total fixed costs by 25 percent and permanently improve the unit's results by 100 billion yen starting in 2011.

It foresees the closure of two small assembly sites near Nagoya, Japan, and Bangkok, Thailand, as well as the reduction of 2,300 employees in total.

In its domestic Japanese market, Fuso held a share of 22.5 percent, a hair more than Toyota's Hino but smaller than market leader Isuzu.

Best known for its popular Canter light-duty truck, Fuso also builds the larger Fighter and the Super Great heavy truck along with a range of city buses and coaches.

Starting in the first quarter of next year, Fuso plans to begin assembly of Canters in Russia as part of a joint venture with local partner Kamaz with the initial target of selling several thousand per year.

(Reporting by Hendrik Sackmann, Writing by Christiaan Hetzner)