Japanese maker announced plans to jump on the petrol-electric bandwagon
14 December 2006

Nissan is finally ready to embrace hybrids. The company announced in Japan this week that it will develop its own original hybrid vehicle, targeted for launch sometime after April 1, 2010. In his speech to the media, Nissan COO Toshiyuki Shiga didn't go into details on what car this would be, other than to say "we are thinking of F/R," meaning a front-engine, rear-drive configuration.

Investigations by Autocar can reveal that the car Nissan is thinking about is the next Fuga/Infiniti M35/M45. This uppercrust BMW 5-series rival to date sells mainly in Japan and North America and while Infiniti is set to come to Europe in 2008, this long awaited Nissan hybrid will initially start sales in Japan and North America before shipping to Europe, if indeed it comes at all.

Since Nissan's hybrid system is being designed for rear-drive, this might also rule in the next FX35/45 SUV, but we hear that's already been signed off, so too late to make the 2010 hybrid cut. Other potential hybrid candidates include the next Cima/Infiniti Q45 flagship saloon and the hulking Infiniti QX56 SUV that sells in the States.

Nissan to date has produced two petrol-electric hybrids. The first was the little known Almera Tino hybrid that only sold in Japan in very limited numbers in the late '90s. In North America in 2007, Nissan will begin sales of a new shape Altima saloon (above) which uses Toyota's bought-in hybrid technology allied to Nissan's own engine.

Nissan chief Carlos Ghosn (right), who has been a persistent and vocal critic of hybrids, told the media this week in Japan than there are still two ways of looking at the hybrid question. "From a technological point of views, yes, hybrids are one promising alternative technology. But from the mass marketing point of view," he said, "hybrids have yet to be shown to be a viable commercial proposition."

Peter Nunn

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