Renault – the latest automaker to join the booming China passenger car market – was slow because it had its hands full in Japan, Korea and eastern Europe.

While other large automakers have built up joint ventures in China in the past five years, Renault was cementing its alliance with Nissan, which it rescued from near-bankruptcy in 1999, Automotive News Europe said.

The French automaker also had work to do at fading Romanian automaker Dacia, which it acquired in 1999, and with Korea’s Samsung, which Renault took over in 2000 through its link with Nissan.

A joint venture in China that Renault launched in 1993 with Sanjiang, a Chinese aerospace company, to produce the Trafic light commercial vehicle was unsuccessful. Production stopped last year.

Now Renault, Europe’s third largest automaker, is ready to try again. Under a plan still to be approved by Chinese authorities, Renault and Dongfeng Motor aim to build 300,000 cars a year by 2010.

“We are moving in now because we can build upon the partnership Nissan formed with Dongfeng,” a Renault spokeswoman said.

Reanult will start manufacturing in late 2006 with the three-box Megane lower-medium model and the Logan, Renault’s recently launched car for developing markets.

Renault and Nissan are two of the five non-Chinese automakers that have formed a partnership with Dongfeng, the smallest of China’s “big three” state-owned vehicle manufacturers behind Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. and First Auto Works Group.

The yet-unnamed Renault Dongfeng joint venture will be able to draw on DFL’s r&d facilities, mechanical components and suppliers.

Renault has not yet disclosed the amount of its investment or the possible sites of its future plants.

Some assets of Sanjiang Renault Automotive may be sold to the Dongfeng Renault venture.