Nissan Motor Co. said on Monday it would launch a diesel version of its X-Trail sport utility vehicle in Japan next year, a move that could revive the all-but-dead diesel passenger car segment in the world's third-biggest auto market.
Japan's No. 3 automaker is developing high-performance catalysts and advanced engine management technologies on a diesel engine co-developed with partner Renault SA to further clean exhaust emissions. The engine will be designed to meet new emissions standards in Japan, Nissan said in a statement.
The introduction of the diesel X-Trail, due out in the autumn of 2008, could mark the first diesel passenger car launched in Japan by a local brand in years after the powertrain all but disappeared in the 1990s due to its poor image as dirty and loud.
Diesel cars' weakness has been higher exhaust levels of nitrogen oxide (NOx) and pollutants, but they are slowly gaining traction around the world following their success in Europe since they can get 30 percent better mileage than gasoline engines and emit less carbon dioxide.
DaimlerChrysler AG is so far the only automaker to offer a diesel passenger car in Japan, the Mercedes E320 CDI sedan, and is keen to see local brands entering the niche to promote the powertrain, in which it holds a technological edge.
Honda Motor Co. has said it plans to sell diesel-fuelled cars in Japan after 2009. Toyota Motor Corp., which controls more than 40 percent of the Japanese market, has yet to commit to a diesel passenger car for Japan.