Nissan expects double-digit sales growth in southeast Asia in 2008/2009 on the back of strong local economies and as it plans to introduce new models in the fast-growing region, an executive said.

Thierry Viadieu, corporate vice president of Nissan Motor, predicted sales growth in the Philippines and Indonesia, but expects flat sales in Thailand and Malaysia where the political situation has upset consumer confidence, Reuters reported.

Viadieu, who heads Siam Nissan Automobile and Siam Motors & Nissan, said uncertainty over the economic health of the United States, Asia's main export market, would eventually affect Southeast Asia.

"So far the economy in the region is not slowing down and the situation is quite good. In Indonesia the automotive market has been growing very well," Viadieu told Reuters in an interview.

"For 2008 our forecast is the economy will continue to grow in the region," he said after Nissan launched its new hatchback model, the Livina, in Indonesia to compete with the Honda Jazz and Toyota Yaris.

"The forecast that we are preparing for the region is double-digit because we will be launching new models."

Reuters noted that the favourable outlook comes amid a slowing auto market in the United States, whose economy has been hit by the fall-out from the sub-prime lending crisis.

Southeast Asia, home to around half a billion people, is a growth centre for the automotive industry with countries like Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam trying to lure car makers to invest in their markets, it added.

Nissan expects sales of around 90,000 cars in Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia in the year to March, the report said.

Reuters said sales in the January-November period those four countries by all manufacturers reached over 1.4m units, up around 3% from a year ago.

In Indonesia, Nissan sold 19,030 vehicles in 2007 - just over 4% - of total sales of 434,000 vehicles during that period by all carmakers. The 36% rise in car sales last year reflected an industry recovery after the government raised the price of fuel in October 2005, the news agency said.