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Nissan focuses on electric car

NISSAN Motor Co said yesterday that its electric vehicles will be affordable, setting sights on the potentially lucrative market with a plan to mass produce zero-emission cars globally from 2012.

Japan's No. 3 auto maker said it would unveil its first electric vehicle in Japan on August 2 and begin sales next year.

"We are moving forward with zero-emission vehicles," said Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn at a shareholders' meeting.

Nissan will sell electric cars first in Japan and the United States after April 2010, and then mass produce them globally in 2012.

Along with production in Japan and Europe, Ghosn said Nissan would make electric vehicles in the US at its Smyrna plant in Tennessee with initial output capacity of more than 100,000 units per year.

"The US is going to be a very important market" for the company's electric vehicle strategy, he said.

"I can tell you I'm not at all worried about how to sell these cars because there is an appetite for zero-emission cars."

Other car makers are also racing to produce fully electric cars. US-based Tesla Motors has a prototype that is scheduled to be produced by 2011. Toyota Motor Corp has said it plans to sell electric vehicles in the US by 2012 while Chinese auto maker Dongfeng Motor Corp has teamed up with a Dutch-based company to develop and make electric cars.

Ghosn gave few details, but stressed that Nissan's zero-emission cars will come "with a very reasonable price."

"If it's not affordable, it's not going to work," Ghosn told reporters.

"We are not going to come with a very high price. We are going to come with a reasonable price," he said. "We are here to mass market them."


Earlier in the month, Nissan's smaller rival, Mitsubishi Motors Corp, launched its electric vehicle, the i-MiEV, with a price tag of 4.59 million yen (US$48,300). Even the company acknowledged the i-MiEV is too pricey and said it aims to cut the price in the future.

Ghosn said expensive electric cars are "for a niche" market which Nissan doesn't plan to target.

Ghosn brushed off criticism that Nissan is falling behind its bigger rivals - Toyota and Honda Motor Co - in the increasingly competitive market for gas-electric hybrid vehicles, saying the global market for hybrid cars remains too small.


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