Malaysia’s Naza Group says it has been chosen to lead Automobiles Peugeot’s expansion in Southeast Asia, as the French auto maker makes Malaysia its regional hub.

As part of Peugeot's plans, The Edge newspaper says the auto maker will expand its Association of Southeast Asian Nations regional office in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, to coordinate operations for the entire Asia/Pacific region, excluding China.

The office also will operate a training center and technical help desk for aftersales technicians in the region, as well as in the Middle East.

Peugeot’s plans for Malaysia were conveyed by director of Asia Pacific and Africa International Operations Jean-Yves Dossal to Naza Group Joint Executive Chairman Nasarudin Nasimuddin at the recent World Peugeot Conference in Paris.

“For this year, we will launch four models locally and ramp up exports of our Peugeot vehicles manufactured at our plant in Gurun to other parts of the region,” Nasarudin is quoted as saying.

The Business Times says Peugeot decided on Malaysia as its regional hub because of Naza’s success in expanding the French marque last year.

The Naza group became the official distributor for the Peugeot brand in January 2008 and has been chosen to head the regional expansion after it raised the brand’s sales last year 700% to 1,419 units, the newspaper says.

This year, Naza has set a sales target of 2,930 Peugeot vehicles in Malaysia, including a locally built entry-level model, codenamed T33.

Naza also inks a deal with General Motors Co. to distribute Chevrolet cars in Malaysia.

Naza Joint Executive Chairman Faisal Nasimuddin tells reporters the deal will include both completely built-up and complete-knocked-down vehicles.

Naza takes over distribution from DRB-Hicom Bhd, which had handled Chevrolet under a joint venture with GM until the two sides recently agreed to end the operation.

“Announcements as to the details of partnership will be made known to the public in due course, upon formalization of the agreement,” Naza says.

Naza says the agreement is part of the group's ongoing efforts to continuously look for viable business opportunities with foreign partners in order to complement and consolidate its automobile sales portfolio.

An unnamed source tells The Star newspaper GM intends to launch six to eight new Chevrolet models in Malaysia within three years, with plans to extend its dealership network to 25-30 outlets from seven currently.

“Naza also has a good manufacturing facility, which can help GM produce cars in Malaysia,” the source is quoted as saying.

All Chevrolet models now on sale in Malaysia are imported.

Naza is Malaysia’s main distributor for brands such as Ferrari, Kia,and Maserati.