Fuji Heavy Industries, maker of Subaru vehicles, said on Wednesday a business partner will begin assembling its compact SUVs in Malaysia in 2012, with the goal of expanding sales in several fast-growing south east Asian car markets.

Fuji Heavy tolf Kyodo News it had signed a memorandum with TC Subaru, the distributor of Subaru cars in Malaysia, to produce vehicles at an existing assembly plant of its parent company, Tan Chong Motor Assemblies.

Production is to begin in October 2012 of up to 5,000 Subaru sport utility vehicles a year, for sale in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, Fuji Heavy said.

''Tan Chong Group has been expanding sales and the distribution network of Subaru vehicles across ASEAN,'' Fuji Heavy said, referring to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, whose 10 members are Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Myanmar, the Philippines and Brunei.

Fuji Heavy said it aimed to ''further expand its sales in the large and growing ASEAN region, by leveraging this local assembly of Subaru vehicles.''

Separately, the automaker told Reuters it aims to boost its global sales by 37% to 900,000 vehicles in the next five years, bolstered by the launch of three all-new models and its first hybrid car.

Announcing a new five-year business plan, Fuji Heavy also said it would target an operating profit of JPY120bn (US$1.5bn) in the financial year ending in March 2016, with a profit margin of 6%, based on an average dollar rate of JPY90 and euro of JPY120. Last business year, its operating profit was JPY84.14bn.

Kyodo said Fuji Heavy plans to triple sales in China to 180,000 vehicles by the fiscal year from about 62,000 in fiscal 2010, by launching a joint production facility with a local automaker, while seeking to increase sales to 380,000 vehicles in North America from about 307,000.

Fuji Heavy said it has ''positioned these five years to solidify the foundation of its core Subaru automobile business in order to ensure further growth'' as part of efforts to boost sales to 1m vehicles within a decade.

It plans to spend JPY330bn yen on facilities and equipment during the period.

In the current 2011 business year ending next March, the automaker said it expects a group net profit of JPY35bn, down 30.4% from the previous year, affected by the 11 March earthquake-tsunami disaster. It forecasts an operating profit of JPY30bn yen, down 64.3%, on sales of JPY1.48 trillion, down 6.4%.

Global automobile sales in the year are projected at 633,000 vehicles, down 3.6% from a year earlier.