NEW DELHI - Nissan Motor Co will soon offer a line-up of nine vehicles in India including five built locally as it aims to catch up with rivals in the fast-growing market, the head of its Indian operations said.
I'm often asked whether Nissan has taken too much time to enter India, Nissan Motor India CEO Kiminobu Tokuyama told Reuters at the Delhi auto show, where Nissan is not an official exhibitor.
And I always say: It's not too late.
Japan's No. 3 automaker currently only imports a small number of cars to India, selling only around 400 X-Trail SUVs and Teana sedans last year.
But it is scheduled to start producing a new compact car at its first Indian factory in May with production volumes that are expected to surpass Honda Motor Co's local volumes next year given its plans to turn India into an export base to supply more than 100 countries.
The Chennai factory, co-owned by French partner Renault SA, plans to ship 110,000 units of Nissan's new global compact car in 2011, mainly to Europe, expanding that to 180,000 in the near future, Tokuyama said.
Nissan has not disclosed how many of the compact cars it will build for local consumption. But Tokuyama said Nissan wanted to at least match its global market share of about 5.5 percent in India as soon as possible.
The new compact car, which will replace the March/Micra subcompact in Europe, will first be available as a hatchback, adding a sedan version next year and another body type later. Diesel models are also in the pipeline.
Renault said a day earlier it would also offer a model based on the same V platform for Nissan's global compact car as they aim to make the most of their comprehensive partnership.
Nissan will offer two other locally built models in India which Tokuyama said would likely include a light commercial vehicle (LCV) co-developed with Ashok Leyland Ltd. LCVs for the Nissan badge will also be produced at the Chennai plant, he said.
The nine-model count would not include the ultra low-cost car that is due to be developed and built by Bajaj Auto Ltd and marketed by Renault and Nissan.
We haven't decided yet whether the car would take a Nissan badge, Tokuyama said.
To boost sales, Nissan plans to expand its dealer network to 55 by around 2012 from the current seven, Tokuyama said.
Nissan and Renault's foray into India had been interrupted by the financial crisis, with Renault putting its investment in the Chennai plant on hold in 2008 to save cash.
But Renault said on Tuesday it would resume investment in India, announcing plans to build the Fluence and Koleos premium cars, launched at the Delhi Auto Expo, at the Chennai factory from next year.
The Renault-Nissan alliance is also looking at sourcing parts from India for their factories around the world.
Tokuyama said Nissan had 97 local suppliers for its vehicles in India, covering 85 percent of the components.
(Editing by Lincoln Feast)