• The Associated Press

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Isuzu Motors Ltd. said Tuesday it will start producing small trucks in Russia, the latest move by a global manufacturer to strengthen its business in the growing market.

Isuzu Motors will begin full-scale production of the Elf light-duty commercial truck in Russia this month, with a sales goal of 500 units this year, the company said in a statement.

The vehicles will be sold under the Isuzu brand, but production will be carried out under an agreement with OAO Ulyanovsk Avtomobilny Zavod, based in Ulyanovsk. OAO Ulyanovsky 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, there will be nine dealerships affiliated with the Russian truck maker selling Isuzus, but that will grow to more than 30 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. broke ground last month on its first fully owned plant in Russia.

Three other foreign car companies launched plants in Russia last year: France’s Renault SA, South Korea’s Kia Motors Corp. and Toyota Motor Corp., which built a plant near GM’s site.

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