Nissan has begun shipping key components from its Chennai facility in India to China and Thailand.


“Trial production of parts has begun for the global platform cars scheduled to debut in China and Thailand next year. The tests have been very successful so far,” Nissan Motor India chief Kiminobu Tokuyama told Hindu Business Line.


The automaker is gearing up to launch a new platform on which to build the next generation Micra, production of which is moving from the UK, and other new models to be made in China and Thailand.


Nissan plans to produce a range of hatchbacks and sedans in five countries on a common platform.


“We still have not taken a decision on the other two countries,” Tokuyama said.


Russia and Brazil are most likely due to the positive outlook for BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India and China) economies in coming years.


Nissan likes India as a source due to high quality vendors and low costs. Rival Honda’s local unit has just started shipping engine parts from the country to the parent company in Japan.


There are 94 suppliers associated with the Nissan project and more could join the list as local content levels grow in future.


The Japanese automaker has targeted production of one million cars across the five countries, though no specific timeframe has been finalised.


“India is an important part of the overall strategy and this can be borne by the fact that it has seen the single largest investment from Nissan in 2009, of the overall US$3.5bn earmarked by the company globally,” Tokuyama said.


“We are very proud of our manufacturing plant in Chennai and do believe that India has lots to offer in terms of its quality and efficient manpower. From Nissan’s perspective, it is a win-win business model,” he added.


The vehicle strategy for the country will involve a mix of direct imports and locally produced cars. Following the launch of the new-look Micra (March in Japan) in mid-2010, a sedan will follow a year later to be succeeded by “yet another model.”


Nissan has also planned a second car platform for India though work is largely still at an exploratory stage.


“We are carrying out preliminary market research and there is still some way to go. For the moment, we are completely focused on the Micra and building our market share,” Tokuyama said.


Nissan will also export fully built-up cars from India – likely to Europe, west Asia and even South Africa.


Nissan already exports the Pixo to Europe but this Alto-based model is built by Maruti Suzuki. Hyundai also has a major export operation for small hatchback models, many of which go to Europe.


According to Business Line, Tokuyama said only numbers would go up from 110,000 units to 180,000 units within two-three years of production ramping up in Chennai.


Nissan’s global alliance partner, Renault had planned a separate production line in the plant but froze investments following the global slowdown. The French automaker is now likely to use the Nissan platform and produce its own models though no decision has been made.