Tokyo: Nissan Motor Corp. launched Thursday its first clean-running diesel vehicle in Japan in a bid to open up a new market by rebranding the fuel as eco-friendly.
The X-Trail 20 GT sports-utility vehicle with an M9R engine offers powerful acceleration while complying with some of the world’s strictest emissions standards that will come into effect across Japan in October 2009.
The car increases fuel economy by 30% over a 2.5-litre gasoline engine and cuts carbon-dioxide emissions by 20%, Japan’s third largest automaker said.
It is the first diesel car in Japan in years for Nissan, which has been less enthusiastic than its domestic rivals in developing eco-friendly hybrid cars.
Japanese consumers have long snubbed diesel-powered vehicles due to the perception that they are smelly, noisy and sooty.
While diesel accounts for approximately 60% of vehicle sales in Europe, the figure is in the single digits in the United States and Japan.
“From now on we will build the image of diesel in Japan and aim to expand our sales by communicating the diesel engine’s appeal one by one to customers,” Nissan’s chief operating officer Toshiyuki Shiga said at a news conference.
“We need to transform each customer’s perception and idea into something positive,” he said.
The launch is a test-case for the company, which targets annual sales of 1,200 units “to see what the market response will be, and whether it will catch on,” said another Nissan official on the sidelines of the event.
With a price tag of nearly three $27,700 dollars including consumption tax, it costs nearly 20% more than a comparable vehicle with a traditional engine, the company said.
But the price gap can be offset in fuel savings by driving an average of 10,000 kilometres annually for three years.
If a hit among the public, Nissan will start developing a line-up using the technology. It also plans to introduce the technology in its models in North America and China by 2010.
Nissan said it hoped the diesel vehicle would attract customers during a tough stretch for the car industry, which is faced with high fuel costs and a sagging world economy.