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* Nissan China JV with Dongfeng Motor to produce 2 Infiniti
* Local China production "a necessity" for sales expansion -
* Infiniti decision puts pressure on Toyota, Honda
By Chang-Ran Kim
TOKYO, April 20 Nissan Motor Co Ltd
said on Friday that it will start building vehicles under its
premium Infiniti brand in China from 2014 as Japan's No.2
automaker aims to challenge the dominance of German rivals in
the world's largest car market.
The move to produce Infiniti models in China, where tariffs
of 25 percent put imported vehicles at a disadvantage, should
put Nissan on a better footing to compete with market leaders
Audi AG, Mercedes Benz maker Daimler AG and
BMW AG, which all produce locally.
Nissan said in a statement that it would build two
yet-to-be-identified Infiniti models at factories operated by
its joint venture with Dongfeng Motor Group Co Ltd. It
did not provide sales or production targets.
Under a mid-term growth plan, Nissan is targeting sales of
500,000 Infiniti vehicles globally by 2016, and has said China
would account for a chunk of that growth.
"For the brand to reach its aggressive sales target ...
local production in the world's largest automobile market is not
an option but a necessity to our success," Andy Palmer, head of
Infiniti operations, said in a statement.
Nissan sold about 146,000 Infiniti vehicles globally, mostly
in the United States, in the business year ended March 2011. In
China, Infiniti sold just 16,126 cars last calendar year, a
fraction of the more than 300,000 sold by Audi, Volkswagen AG's
Nissan's decision cranks up pressure on Japanese rivals
Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co Ltd,
which are also looking to catapult sales of their premium Lexus
and Acura brands globally, but have given no indication they
plan to produce those cars in China.
(Editing by Chris Lewis)