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Nissan begins mass production of new pickup in China

Looser regulations send truck market into overdrive

Zhengzhou Nissan began production Monday on its Navara pickup truck.

ZHENGZHOU, China -- Nissan Motor's manufacturing joint venture Zhengzhou Nissan Automobile began production of its new Navara pickup truck Monday, anticipating a boom for such vehicles in the Chinese market.

China eased regulations on pickups in 2016, sparking the first double-digit growth in six years. Sales competition likely will intensify as big independent Chinese brands and U.S. automakers bolster their efforts as well.

Zhengzhou Nissan holds a share of just over 10% of China's pickup truck market, the third-largest share. The Sino-Japanese venture hopes the Navara, equipped with a seven-speed automatic transmission to improve performance, helps the company catch market leader Great Wall Motors and second-ranked Jiangling Motors. Zhengzhou Nissan plans to begin sales of the Navara in June, but has not released a price or sales target.

Sales of new pickup trucks in China rose 11% in 2016 to 350,000 units, the first increase in three years. Until last year the government had restricted the use of such trucks in central city areas for environmental and other reasons. In February 2016, China began to allow the operation of pickups that met the same emission standards as passenger cars in Hebei, Henan, Yunnan and Liaoning provinces. The city of Chongqing and Hubei Province also have eased regulations.

"Sales competition will become intense among automakers because we are expecting double-digit growth," said Kenji Naito, vice president of Zhengzhou Nissan.

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