Toyota Motor plans to build an auto assembly plant in Russia in 2008, the first local production in that country by any Japanese carmaker, a newspaper reportedly said on Saturday.

Reuters noted that the move by Toyota, which last year overtook Ford as the world’s biggest car seller behind General Motors, would be aimed at opening the Russian market, where the appetite for automobiles is growing rapidly.

The plant, which would manufacture about 15,000 units a year, would aim at producing cars such as the Corolla and Camry aimed at the growing Russian middle class, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun (Nikkei) reported, according to the news agency.

Initial plans would have the auto maker ship half-finished items with assembled parts to the Russian factory for final assembly. Capital spending would start from somewhere between several billion yen to 10 billion yen ($US90.2 million), Reuters said.

The Nikkei reportedly said the final arrangements were likely to be made with the Russian government this year but that the plant was most likely to be a Toyota outfit rather than a joint venture with a local firm.

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