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Nissan Still Committed to the U.S. - Sort Of


Nissan still sees the U.S. as a critical part of its future, company officials say, and aren’t backing down on their commitment to the huge market. But like many of its competitors, it’s apparent that the Japanese maker is looking to new and emerging markets for the bulk of its growth over the coming years.

A new, five-year plan sees the opportunity to generate as much as 1 million units of annual sales growth in places like China, India, and Russia, notes analyst Kurt Sanger, of Deutsche Bank.

“The U.S. is very much a part of the…program,” Nissan’s North American finance chief, Dominique Thormann, told the Detroit News in a separate interview. A number of new models are coming to the States, TheCarConnection has learned, including the next version of Nissan's quirky Cube, the current model shown above. Thormann emphasized, however, that a key part of the growth here is expected to be dominated by the new light commercial vehicles the company plans to build at its plant in Canton, Mississippi.

That reflects a significant shift in strategy. Until now, Canton has focused on large trucks, such as the Infiniti QX56 luxury SUV and Nissan Titan pickup. Production of that ute is being shipped back to Japan, while Nissan is is making major changes in its much-ballyhooed pickup program. It will cease production of its own truck and, for the next-generation Titan, shift to a truck based on Chrysler’s Dodge Ram pickup. Nissan will design the exterior, but the U.S. maker will handle production.

As TheCarConnection previously reported, Nissan may be downgrading trucks, but the automaker has made electric vehicles its top priority, as CEO Carlos Ghosn confirmed this past week in Tokyo. The automaker has launched two small but important EV test programs: one in Israel, the other in Denmark. Meanwhile, it is developing an all-new battery car that will begin fleet sales, in the U.S., in 2010. The company’s goal, according to worldwide product planning director Tom Lane, is to put the new EV into retail showrooms starting in 2012.
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