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Nissan's G8 'clean diesel' debut

2008-06-10 11:00
Nissan, X-Trail

Tomoko A. Hosaka, AP

Nissan said Monday it plans to launch its first "clean diesel"
vehicle in Japan this fall and will send a prototype to next month's
Group of Eight leaders' summit, where climate change tops the agenda.
Delegates attending the G-8 meeting in Toyako, in northern Japan,
will be able to test drive Nissan's X-Trail diesel, a sport utility
vehicle based on technology co-developed with French partner Renault
SA.

The eco-friendly "M9R" engine can deliver powerful acceleration
along with emissions levels low enough to meet tougher Japanese
regulations slated for October 2009, Nissan said.


Diesel shunned by Japanese

While diesel vehicles are popular in Europe, Japanese and American
drivers have largely shunned diesel-powered cars for being too dirty,
smelly and loud. Diesel cars comprise less than 1% of the
Japanese passenger vehicle market, according to Nissan.

But Japanese and German automakers, who have been investing heavily
in clean diesel technology, are betting that consumers are ready to
give next-generation diesel a chance.

Japan's third-largest carmaker decided to showcase its new diesel
technology in an SUV to maximize its strengths, namely power and good
fuel efficiency over long distances, said Yo Usuba, Nissan's senior
vice president for power train development.

"People can really enjoy driving," Usuba said of the new X-Trail,
which can get up to 30% better gas mileage than its
gasoline-based counterparts and similar torque levels to a
six-cylindar, 3.5-liter gasoline engine.


Monitoring diesel reception

Usuba declined to provide sales projections or pricing, but said the
company will be monitoring how receptive consumers are to the vehicle.

Along with the X-Trail, Nissan has said it plans to introduce a
clean-diesel version of its popular Nissan Maxima in the United States
in 2010.

Japanese rival Honda Motor Co. announced in January that its luxury
Acura brand would launch a clean diesel model in North America in 2009.

Nissan's push into clean diesel technology is part of the company's
broader "Green 2010" plan, which it unveiled in December 2006 to catch
up with rivals in green motoring technology. The initiative includes
research and development of hybrids, fuel cell cars and electric
vehicles.

The X-Trail will also be on display June 19-21 at the "Integrated
Exhibition of the Environment" in Sapporo, Hokkaido, and later at the
site of the G-8 summit at Toyako on July 7-9.

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