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Nissan May Expand Hybrid Lineup

July 21, 2009

TOKYO - Nissan Motor Co. said it was considering expanding its lineup of hybrids, seeking to catch up to rivals Toyota and Honda whose fuel-efficient cars are surging in popularity, according to Agency France Presse (AFP).

Nissan may add its own hybrid technology to small and mid-sized vehicles in addition to the planned launch of a luxury version, said an unnamed AFP source.

"It will be a waste to limit our self-developed hybrid system to just one model. It's only natural to expand the system to our other models," he said.

"Sales of hybrids are strong, and if we only have luxury hybrids, our market will become narrow," he added.

Nissan is slated to launch late next year a hybrid version of its Fuga sedan -- sold as the Infinity M in the United States -- equipped with lithium-ion batteries, the official said.

Japan's Nikkei business daily reported the smaller hybrids will be introduced in the carmaker's best-selling Serena minivans and will be on sale in Japan as early as 2011. The Nissan official declined to offer details.

The automaker until now has concentrated efforts on becoming the leading producer of electric vehicles. It plans to mass-market the zero-emission cars to fleet customers in Japan and the U.S. in late 2010.

Nissan halted the development of hybrids in 2002 during a business slump, signing a licensing agreement with Toyota, which supplied its hybrid technology for Nissan's Altima sedan, available in the U.S. since 2006.

Its renewed hybrid push comes as demand for hybrids grows in Japan, helped by remodeled versions and government tax incentives.


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