Nissan's Chennai plant to become export hub

Japan's Nissan Motor plans to make India one of its key manufacturing locations for its compact cars, including its current offering Micra. ''Low operational costs and the growing importance of India in compact car manufacturing make it an attractive proposition to make India a hub,'' K Tokuyama, managing director and chief executive, Nissan Motor India, said in Mumbai on Friday.

Nissan, which has a partnership with France's Renault, said it would invest close to 350 billion yen ($3.8 billion) this year across the globe, and India may get a ''major chunk'' of the investments, Tokuyama said India will be an export hub for compact cars for many countries, especially for Europe, from the second half of 2010.

Nissan will showcase its enhanced Micra at the Geneva Motor Show in March next year, plans to launch the car in India in May. It will be followed up with five more models in three years, including an entry-level car, commercial vehicles to high-end sports cars and sedans.

Nissan may also set up massive plants in Russia and Brazil to cash in on the prosperity in those resource-rich nations as part of its five low-cost plants across the globe. ''We still have not taken a decision on the other two countries,'' said Tokuyama.

The company is building its Chennai plant with an investment of Rs4,500 crore, and it will have a capacity to produce 4,00,000 cars. The plant is an equal joint venture between Nissan and Renault. Mahindra & Mahindra, which are partners in producing Renault's Logan in India, pulled out of the tripartite agreement for that venture in 2007.

Nissan India which already imports the X-Trail SUV and the Teana sedan as completely built units, plans to sell the 370Z early next year. The company is also contemplating the launch of GTR, a sportscar, or the Murano, a crossover, in India.

''We have yet to decide whether we need a volume puller or an image leader. Depending on the decision, the fourth model will be imported for the Indian market,'' Tokuyama said. The Japanese company is also toying with the idea of selling its electric vehicles in India.