Isuzu makes first step to global objective

Isuzu Motors will begin full-scale production of the ELF light-duty commercial truck in Russia in July and the vehicles will be sold under the Isuzu brand, aiming for sales of 500 vehicles this year, the company said in a statement.

The production will be carried out under an agreement with OAO Ulyanovsky Avtomobilny Zavod, based in Ulyanovsk, Russia, which employs 17,000 workers and is a subsidiary of Isuzu's local partner OAO Severstal-Avto.

Isuzu's annual production in Russia will grow to 10,000 vehicles within three years, and Isuzu foresees potential sales growing to 30,000 a year in the future, the company said.

When sales begin in September this year, nine dealerships affiliated with the Russian truck maker will sell the Isuzu trucks but that will grow to more than 30 dealers throughout Russia by the end of the year, Isuzu said.

Tokyo-based Isuzu's announcement follows similar moves by other automakers in Russia, reflecting their ambitions to take advantage of the fast-growing and oil-rich nation's burgeoning auto market.

General Motors Corp., the world's biggest automaker, broke ground on its first fully owned plant in Russia last month.

Three other foreign car companies launched plants in Russia last year: France's Renault SA, South Korea's Kia Motors Corp. and Japan's Toyota Motor Corp., whose plant is near the GM site. Ford Motor Co. has a factory near St. Petersburg.