AGUASCALIENTES, Mexico — Renault SA is gearing up to build its vehicles at Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. plants in Mexico.

The French automaker, which last year took a controlling interest in Nissan, plans to start production of its Scenic multi-purpose vehicle (MPV) model at Nissan Mexicana S.A. de C.V.'s plant in Cuernavaca early next year, says Emil E. Hassan, senior vice president, quality, purchasing and logistics for Nissan North America Inc.

Nissan Mexicana's larger plant in Aguascalientes, the sole source of the '00 Sentra, will start production of the Renault Clio in 2002.

Both Renault models are destined for the Latin American market. Joint investment to integrate Renault production will be US$400 million over the next six year, Hassan says.

Nissan officials say Renault plans to build 10,000 units of the Scenic in its first year. Combined Renault production in Nissan's Mexico plants will total 30,000 units by 2003.

Renault eventually plans to build 30,000 units of the Clio annually at Aguascalientes, bringing the plant's total annual vehicle production to 200,000.

The incorporation of Renault products at the Aguascalientes plant will require the hiring of some 500 workers, a Nissan insider says.

Hassan says Renault's attraction to Nissan's facilities in Mexico is logical because there is available capacity. The Aguascalientes plant has yet to operate at full capacity, while Nissan's Smyrna, Tennessee, U.S.A., plant has been producing at or above capacity.

Additionally, the Scenic and Clio are good fits for the Mexican market, he says. Renault will access Nissan's dealer network in Mexico. In turn, Nissan will use Renault's financing arm there, Hassan says.

The vehicles will be built on common lines but not on a common platform, at least not in the beginning, Hassan says. Scenic and Clio models also are built in France.