Isuzu Motors Buys Land In Alabama As Possible Factory Site

Isuzu purchased land in Alabama for $7.8 million, but is staying mum on its purpose.

TOKYO (AP) - Japanese truck maker Isuzu is readying a full-fledged return to production in the U.S., having recently purchased land in the southern state of Alabama for $7.8 million, a company spokesman said Monday.

Isuzu Motors Ltd. bought land in Birmingham, previously occupied by a warehouse of Del Monte Corp., for future business activities in North America, including possibly setting up a vehicle assembly plant there, although details cannot be disclosed, Isuzu spokesman Tadashi Ioka said.

Isuzu had a joint venture in Indiana with Fuji Heavy Industries Ltd., the maker of Subaru automobiles, but withdrew in 2003, when Fuji bought out Isuzu's share in the venture and became sole operator of the plant.

Isuzu truck sales in the U.S. grew about 10 percent last year to 27,000 units, Ioka said.

Japan's top business daily The Nikkei reported Monday that Isuzu plans to assemble midsize vehicles, starting production in 2009 or 2010. Ioka declined to comment on the report.

Last year, Toyota bought a 5.9 percent stake in Isuzu, well-known for its diesel technology, that Toyota is eager to gain. Earlier General Motors Corp. sold its entire 7.9 percent stake in Isuzu.

Nearly all of Isuzu's vehicles sold in the U.S. are imported from Japan. Tokyo-based Isuzu produces fewer than 5,000 trucks a year, using a GM plant in Janesville, Wis., in an agreement with the U.S. automaker.

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