Mitsubishi Motors Corporation is considering building an assembly plant in Russia and there have been reports in the last day or so that it may do this in partnership with PSA Peugeot-Citroen, for which it is now building Citroen and Peugeot-badged crossover models for sale in Europe.

A Mitsubishi Motors Europe spokesman told just-auto on Friday: “At the moment there are no specific plans for an assembly plant in Russia.

“We are conducting a feasibility study on local assembly there but it is in the very early preliminary stages.”

Earlier on Friday, Russia’s Prime-Tass news agency cited an MMC spokesman as saying the automaker had been in contact with the Russian government regarding its interest in locally producing cars.

Like the MME spokesman, the Japanese spokesman said the study was at a very early stage and MMC currently has no detailed plans for production in Russia.

“We do want to build a plant there, but conditions won’t be so easy” considering various factors such as the costs of launching local production from scratch, MMC reportedly said.

The company is preparing for the possibility of manufacturing cars in Russia but isn’t close to setting an investment amount, selecting a plant site or deciding whether it will need a partner, the spokesman told Prime-Tass.

The Nikkei business daily said on Friday that MMC and PSA were considering building a JPY50bn ($US415m) factory in the suburbs of Saint Petersburg with an annual output capacity of 200,000 vehicles. The plant would build the new Lancer launched this week at Detroit (the previous generation is a top-selling fully-imported car in Russia).

MMC hopes to establish a local manufacturing base without having to make a massive investment, the Nikkei said, adding that, at the end of last year, Mitsubishi signed a memorandum of understanding with the Russian government detailing its plans to enter the local market.

Huge costs and the unpredictable nature of policymaking in Russia, had led the company to conclude was too risky a venture to go it alone, the Nikkei added.

Such details in the newspaper report were speculative, the MMC spokesman told Prime-Tass.

Mitsubishi Motors currently exports cars built in Japan and the US to the Russian market.

Toyota is starting production in Russia this year, and Nissan Motor is also building an assembly plant there.

US-based rival Ford is well established with a thriving and expanding Focus plant near St Petersburg (Toyota chose a site close by for its Camry plant) and GM has local joint ventures building Chevrolet-brand vehicles elsewhere in the country.

According to Nikkei, new car sales in Russia reached 1.8m units in 2005, a 50% increase in only five years. Mitsubishi shipped 57,000 cars to the Russia that year, nearly tripling the figure in two years.