Nissan Opens First Russian Plant

Plant has production capacity of 50,000 vehicles a year

Nissan Motor Company on June 2 opened its first factory in Russia alongside Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, talking up the prospects for the Russian car industry despite the economic crisis.

The assembly plant in the suburbs of Russia's second city Saint Petersburg has a production capacity of 50,000 vehicles a year and will initially employ 750 people.

The opening of the $200 million facility comes at a time of crisis in the Russian auto industry, which has seen sales plummet and factories forced to stop their production lines for weeks on end.

"Despite the global economic crisis, great investment projects are being realized in Russia," said Putin, who drove the first vehicle to come off the production line, a Nissan Teana. "The government will continue to support whatever kind of investment in the future but in the first place direct investment and above all linked to innovative tehnology and progress."

Carlos Ghosn, the CEO of Japan's number three car manufacturer, said that despite the economic crisis the Russian market still had huge potential. "Russia has strategic importance to Nissan. Our confidence in the significant potential of this market contributed to our decision to start local production. "Our success in Russia will be linked to the support of the Russian government and Russian people," he added.

The factory is the second such facility opened by a Japanese manufacturer in Saint Petersburg. There is also a Toyota plant in the city, which has become a magnet for foreign investment in the Russian auto sector.

Russia saw a boom in its car market as the enjoyed unprededented growth over the last years but Industry Minister Viktor Khristenko has admitted is could contract by 60% in 2009 compared with 2008.

The opening of the factory however came just days after the German government chose a bid supported financially by Russia's biggest bank Sperbank to take over struggling GM unit Opel.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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