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Isuzu Motors plans to set up a research and development unit for its one-ton pickup truck in Thailand this year, Hiroo Majima, a senior executive of the company’s purchasing division told Dow Jones on Monday.

“We plan to set up a R&D unit for D-Max pickup trucks, maybe, this year. The investment isn’t going to be big,” Majima reportedly said on the sidelines of a press conference in Bangkok.

Dow Jones noted that the D-Max is Isuzu’s latest one-ton pickup truck model launched earlier this year and that Isuzu dominates Thailand’s fast-growing pickup truck market with a 37% market share in May.

Its plan continues the trend of major car makers to increase their presence in Thailand, the news agency added, noting that, earlier this month, Toyota said it would establish a new research and development centre with branches in both Australia and Thailand as part of plans to better tailor its vehicles to needs in the region.

Isuzu aims to produce around 140,000 trucks in Thailand this year, up from around 95,000 units last year, Dow Jones said, citing Yuji Kosaka, managing director of Isuzu Motors Co., (Thailand) Ltd.

Kosaka reportedly said Isuzu also intends to boost its pickup truck output in Thailand by 10%-20% in the coming years.

Meanwhile, Dow Jones reported, Majima said the company will also see major relocation to China from Japan and the US.

“We plan to establish some plants in China within two years from now for (10- ton) truck production,” Majima reportedly said, adding that the 10-ton truck output would be around 10,000 units a year, when the relocation is complete.

Isuzu currently makes 30,000-40,000 two-ton trucks per year in China, Majima told Dow Jones.

The news agency noted that, in January, General Motors said it was in talks with Isuzu and Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. to establish a 10-ton truck joint venture in China. GM has a 49% stake in Isuzu.

Japan’s Nihon Keizai Shimbun had reported that Isuzu and GM intend to take a combined stake of just over 40% in the venture and said the partners plan to produce 10,000 10-ton trucks annually at the joint venture from next year, increasing annual output to between 20,000 and 30,000 trucks in 2005, Dow Jones added.