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Nissan still confident in Thai market, launches latest Navara pickup at new plant

Japanese auto giant Nissan Motor remains confident about the Thai market, which it believes has an underlying growth trend despite some political and economic issues.

The company's chief planning officer, Andy Palmer, said yesterday that Nissan fundamentally believed that the underlying trend in the Thai market was one of growth.

Although the country has some political problems, the market will grow if one takes a time frame of five to 10 years, he said.

The basic indicators of the market show that the Kingdom has essentially a healthy economy, he added on the sidelines of the auto-maker's world premiere in Thailand of the All-New Nissan NP300 Navara pickup.

The model will be produced by the company's second assembly plant in Thailand, located in Samut Prakan and scheduled to be officially opened on July 3.

Palmer said production at the new plant would be split roughly 50:50 for the export and local markets.

The company disclosed earlier that the plant would have an initial annual production capacity of 75,000 units, which would be expandable to 150,000 units.

"Our new pickup is born in Thailand, but its impact will be global," he said.

Palmer said Thailand and the rest of Southeast Asia remained an important region for Nissan, and a crucial market for pickups.

Thais are the world's biggest per-capita buyers of pickups, ahead of even the US, and are also the world's biggest buyers of one-tonne pickups, he said.

More than 40 per cent of vehicles sold in the Kingdom are one-tonne pickups, and 60 per cent of all vehicles made here are either one-tonne or double-cab pickups, said the chief planning officer.

Thailand is a large market in itself and, given its regional location, is a great export hub, he stressed.

Nissan, which established its local business in 1952, was the first Japanese auto company in Thailand.

Last month, the auto-maker also inaugurated its new manufacturing facility in Indonesia.

The second plant in Purwakarta represents an investment of

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