Japanese automaker Nissan has laid the first stone at its new $2 billion plant in Mexico, where it expects to increase production to more than 1 million units annually.

"The new Aguascalientes complex underscores the objectives set forth by Nissan's global strategy, Nissan Power 88, including a target global market share of 8 percent. The increase of manufacturing capacity for an operation that has already proven its leadership will enable us to deliver more innovative vehicles for markets that are clamoring for them," Nissan Americas vice chairman Bill Krueger said.

The plant, whose construction was announced in January, will allow Nissan to increase its production from 600,000 units annually to more than 1 million units annually in Mexico, Krueger said.

The ceremony at which the first stone was laid was attended by numerous dignitaries, including President Felipe Calderon and Aguascalientes Gov. Carlos Lozano de la Torre.

"This is a project of major importance ... that will boost our economy and allow the creation of more opportunities for progress and the well-being of the people of Aguascalientes, and for all Mexicans," Calderon said.

Mexico and Aguascalientes, which is in the central part of the country, were chosen because of their competitiveness and the skill of the labor force, Nissan said.

"This first stone represents our commitment to work and collaborate with Nissan to ensure that this project, that Aguascalientes is sharing with Mexico and the world, drives growth and generates benefits for all productive sectors and thousands of families in our country," Lozano said.

Nissan Mexicana has a 25 percent share of the automotive market in Mexico, making it the leader in the sector.

"The magnitude of Nissan's commitment to this new automotive complex is without par. With this investment, we will be able to increase our manufacturing capacity from over 600,000 units per year, to more than 800,000 units by the close of 2013, continuing our record setting production rates in Mexico. And this is only Phase 1," Nissan Mexicana vice president of manufacturing Armando Avila said.

Nissan, which entered the Mexican market in 1959, is in the process of recruiting and training more than 3,000 employees for the first phase of the project.

"Phase I of this complex will be completed in a record time of 20 months and it will be operational by the end of 2013. Nissan's expanded production will be supported by a network of suppliers based at the adjacent supplier park, as well as from other locations. Vehicles manufactured in Mexico by Nissan have 80 percent domestic content," the Japanese automaker said.

Nissan Mexicana has corporate, marketing, sales, manufacturing, distribution and design facilities in Aguascalientes, Mexico City, Cuernavaca and Toluca.

The company employs more than 11,600 people in Mexico. EFE