ISUZU Motors of Japan is increasing the competition between foreign carmakers in China's minibus market with plans to develop a new generation of product with its mainland partner. Hiroshi Dyama, Isuzu's administration manager for Asia, said yesterday that the product would be 'one hundred per cent new' and would be jointly developed with Beijing Light Bus, in which Isuzu has a 15 per cent stake. Initial output was put at 10,000 minibuses, according to Beijing Light Bus, although investment details and product design have not been finalised. 'We must study a lot of things [such as] the investment scale. We must make sure the proportion of more than 50 per cent of parts of the product should be supplied by Chinese companies,' Mr Dyama said. Beijing Light Bus has A shares listed on the Shanghai Stock Exchange. A shares are traded in yuan and are meant for domestic investors. The company's chairman, Wang Jinquan, said the production size of the new product would be 10,000 minibuses because it had obtained government approval to double output to 20,000 minibuses. 'The new product will be about seven to eight metres long, which could seat about 20 to 30 passengers,' Mr Wang said. Each was expected to be sold at 500,000 yuan. Mr Wang said that medium-size trucks and minibuses were in great demand in China by government departments and for tourism purposes. Because of this, top car manufacturers have been jumping on the China bandwagon for minibus ventures. Mercedes Benz of Germany has set the pace so far, signing a US$1 billion venture in July to build mini-vans with Guangdong's Nanfang Automotive Corp. One month later, Ford Motor of the United States said it would develop a new generation of mini-bus using Ford technology through its US$40 million investment in Shenzhen-listed Jiangling Motors Corp. No timetable was released for the proposed joint development by Isuzu, which was announced yesterday after shareholders of Beijing Light Bus approved the motion to turn it into a Sino-foreign joint venture. 'The shareholder approval has given us the conditions to apply for a change in the company's status to a Sino-foreign joint venture company,' Mr Wang said. The application for the change of status would be made to China's Ministry of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation within days, he said. Prompting the change was Beijing Light Bus' sale of 15 per cent of its shares to Isuzu and 10 per cent to Itochu Corp of Japan in August. The shares which the companies bought are legal-persons shares, which are owned by institutions or government bodies and cannot be traded on the national stock exchanges. Although Beijing Light Bus said that almost everything regarding the transfer of legal-persons shares was settled, it was still unclear who had the final say over the transfer.