A Chinese unit of Japan's No. 3 automaker, Nissan Motor, has announced it will launch a new China-specific brand to tap the huge demand in the world's largest car market.
The new Venucia line -- Qi Chen in Chinese -- will be developed by Dongfeng Nissan Passenger Vehicle Co., Nissan's joint venture with China's Dongfeng Motor Group, the company said in a statement.
The first mass-production model marketed under the new brand will be introduced to the Chinese market in 2012, said the statement, posted on Nissan's website on Wednesday.
"In the future, we aim to sell more than 1 million vehicles annually and the new brand will play an important role by offering practical models with class-leading quality," said Dongfeng Nissan managing director Fumiaki Matsumoto.
Nissan Motors will supply engines for the small-sized model, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
China's auto sales hit 13.64 million units last year, overtaking sales in the United States to make the Asian country the world's top car market.
Total sales this year are forecast to hit 15 million units in China.
With the launch of the new brand, Dongfeng Nissan will sell passenger cars under both the Nissan and Venucia names in China, according to the company's statement.
Yokohama-based Nissan spokesman Yuichi Nakagawa said, "The new brand is designed to meet the needs of Chinese consumers. As the market grows so big, we also face a variety of needs from customers."
"This brand is specifically targeting consumers in mainland China and was designed as China's own brand under Dongfeng, developed for the Chinese market."
The Wall Street Journal said Thursday that the brand would be aimed at satisfying demand for affordable, no-frills cars in China's hinterland.
Nissan hopes the new brand will help drive sales by Dongfeng Motor Co., of which Dongfeng Nissan is an affiliate, to 1 million cars a year in China but didn't specify a timeframe, the report said.
Dongfeng Motor Co. sold 519,000 vehicles in China last year and is on track to reach its target of 600,000 vehicle sales this year, it added.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2010