GENEVA - Nissan Motor unveiled its much-awaited low-cost compact car aimed at becoming a major force in the fast-growing segment, targeting global sales of 1 million units with the roll-out of a family of compact cars by 2013.

The hatchback, built on Nissan's new V platform vehicle underpinnings, will be called Micra, or March in some markets, carrying over the name of the model it replaces.

The Micra/March is the Japanese automaker's most important model in years, and the culmination of years of experimenting with new materials and components designs to enable production in low-cost countries including Thailand, India, China and Mexico.

In the past, Nissan had a minimal presence in the compact segment because we did not have a specific (vehicle) platform suited for those customers' needs, Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn said at the unveiling at the Geneva auto show on Tuesday.

This new platform changes everything. Now we will be able to compete, and at the highest level, Ghosn, who is also CEO of Nissan's 44 percent owner Renault SA, said.

Ghosn said the new line-up of compact cars would help boost Nissan's global market presence to 94 percent in 2012 from the current 80 percent, with sales of the Micra/March planned in more than 160 countries. Pricing is yet to be announced.

Production will begin in first in Thailand in coming months, followed by India, where Nissan is looking to take on market leaders Maruti Suzuki India Ltd and Hyundai Motor Co.

Ghosn said the Micra's lightweight structure would limit carbon dioxide emissions to a segment-beating 115 grams/km. Within six months of its European launch in November, Nissan would introduce a high-tech derivative that would bring CO2 emissions to 95 grams/km, he said.

(Editing by Hans Peters)