Nissan to sell small car in India from July

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Japanese automaker Nissan announced Wednesday it will sell its first small car in India from July, as international firms race to compete in the country's booming consumer economy.

Small cars, or hatchbacks, comprise nearly two-thirds of total car sales in India, and Nissan's Japanese rival Suzuki controls more than half of the market through local brand name Maruti.

"We are well on track to open the new factory in March. Production will start in May and the first hatchback... will be sold from July," Kiminobu Tokuyama, Nissan India's managing director, told Dow Jones Newswires.

The company said it planned to export the vehicle from late 2010 and establish India as a global manufacturing hub.

Nissan's small car model will help the firm tap the growing Indian car market, which is forecast to triple to six million cars from two million in a decade.

The country is fast turning into a battleground as global carmakers such as Ford and Toyota seek new growth regions to offset anaemic Western sales.

"It's not too late, we are ready to challenge. We have come here to become a major player," Tokuyama said. "At this moment, it is the most important market for Nissan after Russia and China."

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