TOKYO -- Nissan Motor has become the latest automaker striving to make inroads in the booming Indian market as sales in the United States and other developed nations show signs of slowing.
The Japanese automaker said Monday that it will build a factory in the southern city of Chennai with Renault of France and Mahindra & Mahindra, India's largest maker of jeeps and tractors. The companies will invest a total of at least $902 million over the next seven years for the factory. It is to begin operating in 2009 and will eventually have the capacity to produce 400,000 vehicles a year. Nissan and Renault will each hold 25 percent of the venture, and Mahindra will control 50 percent. Renault owns 44 percent of Nissan.
With sales in the United States and other developed markets slowing, automakers are looking to the developing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China. About 1.14 million passenger cars were sold in India in the year ended March 31, a 70 percent increase from four years earlier, according to the Society of Indian Automobile Manufacturers.
Analysts say that with India's emerging middle class, annual passenger-car sales are on track to top 2 million vehicles by 2010.
Hyundai of South Korea, Ford of the United States and BMW of Germany already have plants in Chennai.
Nissan is arriving in the Indian market behind several competitors. Last year, it sold just 190 units of its X-Trail model, a sport-utility vehicle imported from Japan.
Japan's Suzuki Motor controls half of the Indian auto market through a majority stake in Maruti Udyog, India's largest car company. Suzuki announced this month that it will increase its investment in India by $1.65 billion by 2010.
Hyundai is the No. 2 automaker in India by sales volume. Tata Motors of India, which has a deal with Fiat of Italy, is third. Japanese automakers other than Suzuki have a small presence in India.
Toyota, which has a 4 percent share of the market, aims to quadruple sales to 200,000 vehicles by 2010. Toyota has a plant in Bangalore that produces about 44,500 vehicles a year. Honda said last month that it will invest $150 million to $200 million to build a second plant in India.
U.S. automakers are also ramping up their investments. General Motors, which sells several models in India, is expected to launch its compact Chevrolet Spark in India in 2008. Ford has said it could raise annual production capacity to 100,000 from 60,000.