Nissan to Make Electric Cars in the U.S.

Will produce 100,000 cars next year at Tenn. plant

Nissan Motor Co said on June 23 it plans to produce 100,000 electric cars a year in the U.S. as it aims to position itself in a market hit by the collapse of the Detroit giants.

Japan's third largest carmaker said it would assemble the zero-emission vehicles as well as produce the batteries at its plant in Smyrna, Tennessee. The cars will be launched in the U.S. and Japan next year and globally in 2012.

"The U.S. is going to be a very important market," Carlos Ghosn, the chief executive of Nissan and its French partner Renault SA, said after an annual shareholders' meeting in Yokohama, south of Tokyo.

"I am not at all worried about selling these cars because there is an appetite for zero-emission cars... Our electric vehicle is not just one car innovation. It is a new way to look at our industry," he added.

The company, which is on the way to becoming the first automaker to mass-market electric vehicles around the world, will unveil its first model to the public in Japan on August 2.

Ghosn said Nissan and Renault have agreed to market three models each initially for mass production, and to expand the range in the future.

Nissan is aiming to be the leader in electric cars, while major domestic rivals Toyota and Honda have concentrated efforts on developing fuel-saving technology used in their popular hybrids such as the Prius and Insight.

Since more than a year ago, the carmaker has signed agreements with various governments including Israel, Portugal and Singapore as well as local communities in Japan and the U.S. to set up electric recharging stations.

In Japan, the electric vehicles and the lithium-ion batteries that will power them will be built in several plants around the port city of Yokohama, the historical stronghold of the group.

The cars are also widely expected to be produced in Europe, although Ghosn did not give details of a possible manufacturing location.

The announcement comes amid reports that the U.S. government is expected to announce a decision on June 23 on granting federal loans to the carmaker to help it produce its electric vehicles as well as their advanced batteries. Nissan reportedly applied for the loans in February from the Energy Department, becoming the first Japanese automaker to request American taxpayers' money to help its manufacturing plans.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

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