Nissan sells locally-assembled cars in Vietnam

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Japanese automaker Nissan says it is aiming for a greater share of Vietnam's recovering automotive market when it begins to sell locally-assembled vehicles on Tuesday.

The seven-seat Nissan Grand Livina MPV will be the first vehicle to be sold by Nissan that is assembled in the country, the carmaker said.

It will be on sale at dealers in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.

"The opening of two flagship dealers in Vietnam with a locally assembled product represents the company's continuing priority focus on business expansion into emerging markets," said Toshiyuki Shiga, chief operating officer of Nissan Motor.

He called Vietnam, which has a population of about 86 million, "one of the key global automotive markets".

The company is targeting first-year sales of 2,000, including three locally-assembled models as well as imports.

Manufacturing is being done by Vietnam Motors Corp, an existing assembler. Distribution is by Nissan Vietnam, a joint venture between Nissan Motor Co Ltd and Denmark's Kjaer Group A/S, an international distributor of vehicles.

A company official told AFP last year that Nissan decided to start local assembly because high import duties on automobiles had limited market share to about one percent.

"Now Nissan will be positioned to become a significant part of the automotive market in Vietnam," the company said in a news release.

Seventeen automotive producers or assemblers already have operations in Vietnam, including Ford of the United States, and Japanese companies Honda and Toyota.

Their total sales in the first two months of this year were 13 percent higher than the same period last year during a global economic crisis, said the Vietnam Automobile Manufacturers' Association.

Nissan in February upgraded its earnings outlook, saying it expected to end the current financial year to March with a net profit of 35 billion yen (370 million dollars) thanks to solid demand in China and other emerging markets.

Nissan, 44-percent owned by France's Renault, is Japan's number three automaker.

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