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Nissan to Build Plant in Russia

The Nissan Motor Co., Japan’s second-largest automaker, will start building its $200 million-worth auto plant in St. Petersburg on the 24th of this month. The announcement was made by the automaker after signing a deal with Russia’s Economy Ministry in the previous year.

“A groundbreaking ceremony will be held on June 24,” Nissan said in a statement. At its first Russian plant, the Japanese automaker plans to manufacture 50,000 cars annually by 2009. Nissan decline to specify which models will be produced in the plant. It will be announced by the automaker at a later date.

One of Russia’s Economy Ministry officials earlier divulged it would be the Almera and X-Trail. Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn said last year that he envisaged three models being produced at the plant. The Ford Motor Co. already has a plant near St. Petersburg and the Toyota Motor Corp. and the General Motors Corp. are now building plants in the said territory.

Additionally, Japanese car manufacturer Suzuki Motor Corp. and trading house Itochu Corp. are expected to sign a memorandum on building a car plant in St. Petersburg with Russia’s Economy Ministry on the eighth of this month.

Nissan Almera, a small family car that is based on the MS-Platform, was designed to offer accurate handling, good tyre grip and minimal bodyroll. The second generation of the car, introduced in early 2000, features well designed curves and lines. In Nopvember 2006, the car finished production to pave the way for the Tiida. The latter was launched in Europe last month. The British version of the car will be dubbed as the Versa.

The X-Trail, meanwhile, is a compact crossover SUV produced by the Japanese automaker in 2001. It was Nissan’s very first crossover SUV that uses the FF-S platform. The new product line was released at the 2007 Geneva Motor Show in March to rival the Ford Escape, Mazda Tribute, Hyundai Santa Fe, and the Pontiac Aztek. The X-Trail is sold in Africa, Australia, Canada, Europe, India, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Thailand, and Taiwan. The 2008 Nissan X-Trail will go on sale in Europe this summer.

The X-Trail using the new Nissan/Renault Alliance C-platform is made bigger and longer. It features a Nissan hubcap, active headrests, powerful engines, and various cosmetic and engineering changes. Nissan is currently offering a hydrogen fuel cell model named the X-Trail FCV on lease to businesses.

Separately, Nissan’s good standing in the industry is recognized by other auto dealerships. “Jaguar is a niche, not volume franchise and Lincoln-Mercury used to be a volume franchise, but not so much anymore,” said Bill Steinmetz, the president and partner of the Miller Automobile Corp., also called the Darien Automotive Group, which owns the Jaguar dealership at 1335 Post Road.

“Nissan is more of a buying franchise… all the way up to its luxury vehicles. And with gas prices, Nissan cars are more fuel efficient, and therefore, buyer-friendly,” Steinmetz said. Right now, he is happy to be test driving his new fleet of Nissans. Steinmetz drove the Murano Pathfinder, Altima and Frontier. The Titan and the Versa are next on his list. “I’m driving a different one all the time,” Steinmetz said. “I get a feel for them and see how they do. That’s the fun part of the job.”

It is also fun to offer new product lines. He said that the dealership has already sold quite a few Nissans. “We’ve been doing pretty well with it,” Steinmetz said. “This is a great location for Nissan and the car has a lot of appeal in this market. It has something for everybody.”

About the Author

Ryan Thomas is a native of Denver, Colorado. He grew up in a family of car afficionados. He now resides in Detroit where he owns a service shop and works part time as a consultant for a local automotive magazine.

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