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Japan's Suzuki to build auto plant near St. Petersburg

Japanese automaker Suzuki plans to build a car plant near St. Petersburg, Japan's Nikkei newspaper reported Tuesday.

Suzuki is expected to involve Japanese trading corporation Itochu in the project. The plant should start assembling cars, mostly Grand Vitara four-wheel drive off-road vehicles, in 2009. Some $125 million will be invested in the project, with the two investors controlling the plant on a parity basis, the newspaper said. Suzuki currently imports cars assembled in Hungary to Russia. The company's plans for Russia are based on expectations of a further boom on the country's car market.

Russian media reported in May that Suzuki had decided to build a plant in the Shushary industrial zone near St. Petersburg. However, Suzuki has not confirmed the reports. „We cannot say anything at the current stage,” a Suzuki spokesman told a RIA Novosti correspondent. „We will announce an official decision as soon as we make it.”

However, the spokesman confirmed that negotiations were underway with Russia. Igor Konkov, adviser to the Russian economics minister, said the negotiations had reached the contract-signing stage. However, due to the large amount of documents for coordination, the Russian economics ministry will not manage to sign the contract before the St. Petersburg Economic Forum, to be held on June 8-10, as previously planned. Konkov did not disclose the volume of cars Suzuki aims to assemble in Russia, or the exact location of the site for the plant. (