By Fang Yan and Ken Wills
BEIJING May 28 Nissan Motor Co,
Japan's No.2 automaker, will start making Infiniti cars at a
2-billion-yuan ($315 million) plant in China from 2014 as it
moves to challenge the dominance of German rivals in the world's
largest auto market.
Chinese-made Infiniti cars would put Nissan on a more level
playing field with Audi AG, Mercedes Benz and BMW AG
, which have been making cars in China for years,
industry observers say. Imported Infiniti cars have been
available in China since 2007.
"It's a necessary step if Infiniti wants a bigger share of
the Chinese market," said Jenny Gu, a manager with industry
consultancy LMC Automotive.
"Local production would provide the volume it needs to catch
up with the German brands and help to offset a rising yen" that
makes cars imported from Japan more expensive, Gu said.
In a statement, Nissan said two Infiniti models - which have
yet to be named - would be produced at a factory jointly
operated with Dongfeng Motor Group, that makes Teana
and Murano models.
The facility in Xiangyang city in central China would have
an initial capacity of 130,000 vehicles, rising to 250,000
eventually, it added.
Nissan sold about 19,000 Infiniti cars in China in the last
fiscal year that ended in March, a fraction of the more than
300,000 cars market leader Audi delivered in the whole of 2011.
Nissan's mid-term growth plan targets sales of 500,000
Infiniti vehicles globally by 2016, and the company has said
China would account for a large portion of that growth.
"The localization of Infiniti at our Xiangyang plant is a
significant milestone for us," said Kimiyasu Nakamura, president
of Dongfeng Motor Co, Nissan's joint venture with Dongfeng.
"It proves that we are fully capable of producing luxury
vehicles of the highest quality standards here in China, at the
same level of quality as the Tochigi plant, its mother plant, in
Early in the month, Infiniti relocated its global
headquarters from Yokohama, Japan, to Hong Kong, a gateway to
Nissan outsold Toyota Motor Corp to become the top
Japanese light-vehicle brand in China last year for the first
time, according to research firm LMC Automotive.
The Infiniti plant would spear Nissan further ahead of
Toyota and Honda Motor Co in China's luxury car
segment, which Daimler chief executive Dieter Zetsche said could
continue to grow 15-20 percent in 2012 after years of breakneck
Other luxury car makers, such as General Motors and
Honda, are also playing catch-up, hoping to grab a bigger share
of the Chinese market.
GM chief executive Dan Akerson expects Cadillac's China
sales to match U.S. sales levels by 2015 or 2016.
PSA Peugeot Citroen <PEUP.PA) in late April unveiled a
sleek, large coupe-styled sedan, a precursor to the Citroen DS
luxury sub-brand it plans to introduce to China from June 28,
with an annual volume target of 200,000 vehicles within four
Most Infiniti models are made in Japan. To help achieve its
goal to triple global sales of its premium brand by 2016 and
avoid foreign exchange risks, Nissan also plans to localise
Infiniti production in the United States and Europe