TOKYO - Suzuki Motor Corp. has been cleared by China's central government to build 100,000 more cars a year at an existing joint venture, raising the plant's allowable capacity to 150,000 units a year.
The clearance makes Suzuki only the second Japanese carmaker, after Honda Motor Co. Ltd., to receive direct central-government permission to build cars in China.
Under an earlier, limited approval from provincial authorities, Suzuki has been building 800cc Altos at a joint venture in Sichuan Province - Chongqing Changan Suzuki Automobile Co. - since 1995. That permission restricted the plant to 50,000 cars a year.
The approval appears to be part of Beijing's strategy of shifting foreign investment away from crowded coastal regions and into heretofore underdeveloped interior provinces.
Although Changan Suzuki is allowed to build 50,000 Altos a year, its production has never reached that level. Alto output rose from 5,459 in 1995, to 8,448 in 1996, to 26,311 in 1997. It is expected to total about 36,000 this year.
Suzuki is 10 percent owned by General Motors.