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Nissan to make India export hub

NEW DELHI: Japanese auto major Nissan Motor wants to become the largest car exporter from India, a senior executive said.

The second largest carmaker in Japan is also planning to make India the launch pad for its entry level low-cost brand Datsun.

Nissan is the fastest growing exporter of cars from India, in a country where South Korean Hyundai Motor and Maruti Suzuki India are now the leading car exporters. Nissan exports have doubled to 1,00,909 cars in the last fiscal driven by strong demand for compact cars from Europe and Latin American markets.

Nissan began to export cars in 2010 from Chennai and currently ships 85% of its production to overseas markets. Its wholly-owned Indian subsidiary, Nissan Motor India (NMIPL), has now started shipping its sedan model Nissan Sunny after the huge success of its 'made in India' Micra hatchback, which is now sold in over 100 countries.

It exports fully-built cars such as Micra from Chennai, its strategic production hub for Africa, Europe and other Western markets. The company has now started exporting completely knocked down kits of its sedan, Sunny, to Egypt. These kits from India would be assembled by the local Nissan subsidiary abroad.

Speaking to ET, NMIPL Managing Director Takayuki Ishida said: "We have ambitious plans for India. Exports from India have been a huge success so far, and we want to increase it with new models, as trans-continental markets post stronger demand for smaller cars. We plan to increase our production to over four lakh cars, most of which would be meant for exports."

Currently, the company produces three lakh units under the Renault-Nissan global alliance joint plant in Chennai. About 85% of the production is meant to be exported to markets in Europe, Asia and Africa. It eventually aims to pip South Korean carmaker Hyundai as the largest exporter from India, which has shipped 2.37 lakh last fiscal.

"We are readying several markets to increase export of cars manufactured in India. We will also expand our product portfolio by launching several new cars. Many of these would be targeting overseas market and India could be the sole production centre in Asia," Ishida said.

Analysts say that many car companies in India have great potential to tap overseas markets. "India enjoys tremendous advantages of cost competitiveness due to cheaper labour. The added advantage of huge volumes enjoyed by Hyundai and Maruti Suzuki allow them to export more and take competitive advantage in overseas market. Likewise, Nissan also has a huge product portfolio and eventually would become a major player in exports market," said a Mumbai-based auto analyst with a brokerage firm.

Nissan is currently developing a small car of Rs 2-4 lakh to take on models such as Maruti Suzuki Alto and Hyundai Eon. Its manufacturing plant at Oragadam in Chennai would make Datsun cars for local and export markets, even as the company is considering a new factory to manufacture the new low-cost brand.

Datsun, expected to be a high-volume product targeting emerging economies, is expected to roll out by mid-2014. "We are developing the car keeping in mind the needs of emerging markets such as India, Brazil and Russia. The production base here is expected to meet the overseas demand for Nissan cars," Ishida added.

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