Originally created 09/30/05

Nissan adds subcompact to its lineup



DETROIT - Nissan Motor Co. is adding a subcompact to its lineup, a little car that could get lots of attention if gas prices continue to rise.

Nissan announced Wednesday that the 2007 Versa will go on sale in a hatchback version in the summer of 2006 and a sedan will follow later in the year. The Versa will have a starting price of around $12,000.

The Versa will be sold as the Tiida in Mexico, Japan, China and other markets. The "Versa" name is intended to reflect the versatility of the roomy interior, Nissan said. The interior of the Versa is more than six feet long and has a large cargo area.

Jed Connelly, Nissan's senior vice president of sales and marketing, said the Versa and the Nissan Sentra give the company two players in the under-$20,000 sedan segment, which accounts for nearly 2 million U.S. sales each year, or around 12 percent of all U.S. sales.

"Versa rounds out our strong car portfolio, which is going to see a lot of new activity in the coming model year," Connelly said.

Versa's fuel economy is estimated at 38 miles to the gallon. The car has a standard 1.8-liter, 4-cylinder engine.

The Versa will compete with the Toyota Yaris, a replacement for the Echo that will be out this spring, as well as a version of the Honda Fit, which is now sold in Asia but is expected to go on sale in the United States this spring, according to Edmunds.com.

It will also go head to head with some popular vehicles already on the market, including the Toyota Scion xA and General Motors Corp.'s Chevrolet Aveo. The Aveo's sales were up 48.7 percent in the first eight months of the year, to nearly 48,000.

Versa cars for the North American market will be built in Aguascalientes, Mexico, starting next year, Nissan said.

On the Net:

Nissan Motor Co.: http://www.nissanmotors.com