Nissan Motor , the largest Asian automaker in China, plans to nearly double its annual sales in the country to 2.3 million vehicles by the end of 2015, the company said on Tuesday, as it accelerates its expansion in the world's largest auto market.
The company plans new investment of 50 billion yuan ($7.8 billion) in China by the end of 2015, it said in a statement.
The China initiative is essential to achieve Nissan's recently unveiled mid-term business plan to boost its global market share and profit margin to 8 percent within six years.
"Nissan's strong partnership with Dongfeng Motor Corp has been the primary driver of its robust growth over the past eight years in the Chinese market," the statement quoted Nissan's chief executive, Carlos Ghosn, as saying.
"The new plan, with its investment in capacity, products and innovation, will ensure that China continues to be Nissan's largest market," he added.
Ghosn has been at the helm of Nissan since arriving from partner Renault SA in 1999.
To boost its current annual sales level of 1.3 million units, Nissan said it will launch about 30 new products over the next five years, including an electric vehicle under the joint-venture brand name Venucia, which will go on sale by 2015.
The statement said the company aims to add assembly lines at a plant in Changzhou in Jiangsu province, where it will assemble light commercial vehicles.
A new Nissan passenger vehicle facility in the southern city of Guangzhou will start operations next year and another facility in central Hubei province is scheduled to produce heavier commercial vehicles from next year.
Nissan last year nabbed a record 5.8 percent share of the global car market. It now has a 6.2 percent share of the market in China, its largest market where it leads both Toyota Motor and Honda Motor .
In September last year, Ghosn announced a target of capturing a 10 percent market share in China, but he did not provide a timetable.
Nissan, which came to China much later than General Motors and Volkswagen , has been accelerating its expansion in the country along with partner Dongfeng Motor Group Co , a major Chinese state auto group.
In the first half, Dongfeng Motor Co (DFL), Nissan's venture with Dongfeng, sold 734,440 vehicles, up 13.4 percent from the year-ago period, beating a 3.4 percent rise in the overall market.
DFL will boost its network of dealerships to 2,400 by 2015, up from 1,400 now, the company statement said.
Toyota sold about 354,400 vehicles in the same period, down 2.2 percent from its year-earlier number, while Honda sales fell 8.9 percent to 236,264 units.
Industry observers attribute Nissan's stellar sales amid a slowing market to its broader product offerings and more flexible parts procurement practices, which make it less vulnerable to parts shortages in the wake of the deadly Japan earthquake and tsunami in March.
"When the market momentum is high, those with the highest growth score. But when the market is not so good like it has been this year, the winners are the ones that decline less," said Yale Zhang, managing director of Auto Foresight, a Shanghai-based industry consultancy.
"Nissan did much better than that. It outgrew the market. Its tie with Renault might be of some help when it comes to parts supply."
China's once-sizzling auto market has cooled significantly after the government stripped away most of its policy incentives at the end of 2010. Car sales declined for the first time in more than two years in May, prompting some industry insiders to slash their forecasts.