The Renault-Nissan alliance has inaugurated its US$990m plant at Chennai in India which is due to start production in May, building the redesigned Nissan Micra (March) previously assembled in Japan and the UK.

The alliance will start selling the new Micra hatchback in India from July and has targeted sales of 80,000 units for the financial year ending March 2011, an official said on Tuesday. Exports begin in the second hald

With capacity to produce 400,000 vehicles a year at full ramp up, the new Chennai plant will initially employ 1,500 workers. Along with a local supplier park of six companies, the company estimates a total of 6,000 jobs will be created in the region.

Alliance chairman and CEO Carlos Ghosn told some 1,000 invited guests: ““Our plant in Chennai represents a key milestone for the alliance in India. With the new Micra, we have the start of a product offensive in India that is supported by a localised manufacturing facility capable of making products for both Renault and Nissan.”

The Indian-built Micra, the first vehicle derived from the new alliance V-platform, will be exported to over 100 countries in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Exports will be a major portion of sales, Akira Sakurai, chief operating officer of Renault Nissan Automotive India, said earlier.

The Micra was also launched last week in Thailand, where executives said the local plant in suburban Bangkok plant would build 90,000 units in the 2010/11 fiscal year starting 1 April, of which 70,000 would be for export. The Thai plant already exports other models widely throughout the region, including Australia and New Zealand. Micra production is also planned for China and Mexico. Nissan has set a global sales target of 1m units a year by 2013.

From next year the Chennai plant will start production of the Renault Koleos and Fluence for the Indian market.

The new plant will operate in full compliance with alliance global manufacturing processes and quality standards. Its production management system allows the plant to seamlessly mix production of both Renault and Nissan products on same line.

Renault Nissan also has a technical centre in Chennai.