Japan's Nissan unveiled the Qashqai small four by four car for Europe on Wednesday, aiming to ride a wave of demand for off road vehicles despite high fuel costs.
From February 2007, Nissan aims to sell more than 100,000 units a year of the car, based on the platform of the Renault Megane and built in the Nissan factory at Sunderland.
Nissan said the car, a so called crossover and named after a Nomadic tribe in Iran, will cater for those car-buyers who want a more dynamic design but are not attracted to the large, aggressive nature of a compact sports utility vehicle (SUV).
As well as European sales, Qashqai will be exported from the Sunderland factory to Japan where it will be named Dualis the Middle East and additional overseas markets.
The Qashqai is described as a crossover as it combines attributes of a classic passenger car with those of a 4x4.
The top half of Qashqai has a sleek dynamic form with a distinctive shoulder line which rises at the rear a design cue similar to that of the Nissan Murano.
The lower portion resembles a SUV due to large, pronounced wheel arches and a slightly elevated ground clearance.
In terms of size, Qashqai sits between C-segment hatchbacks such as the Megane or Volkswagen Golf and SUVs.
It has a wheelbase of 2,630 mm, it is 1,610 mm tall, 1,780 mm wide and 4,310 mm long. Four engine options will be available, two diesel and two petrol offerings.
Carlos Ghosn, chief executive of Nissan and alliance partner and 44 percent owner Renault, said the model would boost sales.
Qashqai offers an assertive presence on the urban roads but is not intimidating, he said.
We expect Qashqai will sell more than 100,000 units a year on average across Europe with 80 percent of those customers buying a Nissan for the first time, he added.
Ghosn said the Qashqai was the fruit of Nissan and Renault's alliance, which he said was built on trust and transparency.
Under the right conditions, the benefits of alliance can be extended and significant value can be created for all partners, he said, without naming General Motors Corp.
The three groups have given themselves until October 15 to study a possible tie up.
Nissan sales in Europe were down 15.9 percent in the January to July period. Nissan gave no financial details but a French newspaper said the Qashqai would sell in the range of 20,000 euros (13,500 pounds) to 30,000 euros.
Analyst Gaetan Toulemonde at Deutsche Bank in Paris said the segment for smaller four by fours in Europe was keeping up well.
So far mid size SUVs are doing OK in Europe, he said, adding the Qashqai has a more aggressive style.
Kurt Sanger, a Tokyo based auto analyst at Macquarie Securities, said the segment in Europe was taking off.
The whole compact SUV segment is a growth market in Europe. This (Qashqai) is not a big car, and it's geared towards the European market, he said.
Sanger noted that the X-Trail off-roader that Nissan imports from Japan was successful, and that localisation of this type of vehicle in Europe would help improve the cost base in the longer term, although the euro's surge against the yen was reaping windfall gains for Japanese exports now.
Sanger added, however, that the Qashqai was unlikely to prompt a surge in Nissan's sales in Western Europe, where overall demand has been contracting.
The prospects in Europe for Nissan are not terribly good. Europe's really about holding on to what you've got like a Country Western song, he said.