Nissan launches new mini wagon

Nissan Motor Co. is going to get back on a solid growth trend launching new mini vehicle model in Japan Thursday to beef up its lineup for the domestic market.

Nissan, the newcomer to the domestic mini vehicle market, lost business to its rivals because of its insufficient lineup in the category, Toshiyuki Shiga, Nissan Chief Operating Officer, said at a roundtable meeting with the media.

Nissan posted its first annual profit drop for the first time in seven years in the last fiscal year as sales in the U.S. and Japan slumped.

"We'd like to stop our customers from moving" to rivals by adding the new Clipper Rio mini wagon, Shiga said.

Nissan, 44 percent owned by Renault SA of France, aims for annual sales of 4,000 vehicles of the car, the company's first mini wagon model.

Mitsubishi Motors Corp. will produce the Clipper Rio for Nissan, Japan's third-biggest auto maker by sales volume. Nissan consigns all of its mini vehicle production to Mitsubishi and Suzuki Motor Corp.

Sales of mini cars - vehicles with engine capacities of 660 cubic centimeters or less - reached a record 2.02 million in 2006 and are expected to remain near this level in 2007, according to the Japan Automobile Manufacturers Association.