Nissan Motor Co. on Wednesday made its first foray into the minivehicle sector by launching its first domestic minicar model.

The Moco, made by Suzuki Motor Corp. under the Nissan brand, is available with a four-speed automatic transmission and either a DOHC engine with a variable valve timing mechanism or a turbo-charged DOHC engine, Nissan said.

Minivehicles have an engine displacement of up to 660cc.

The Moco front-wheel drive will be priced at around 1.003 million yen, while the four-wheel-drive will list at about 1.362 million yen, Nissan said.

Nissan President Carlos Ghosn said the new model will play an important role for Nissan in attracting new customers, as the minivehicle segment accounts for some 30 percent of the domestic auto market.

Nissan said it plans to sell 4,000 units a month.

The name Moco, short for “moko-moko,” is based on a Japanese phrase that describes a warm feeling and cuteness, and represents the car’s roundness and charming style, Nissan said.

Toyota-PSA ceremony

PRAGUE (Kyodo) Toyota Motor Corp. and PSA Peugeot Citroen of France held a ceremony Wednesday in the Czech Republic to mark the start of construction of a joint small-car plant.

The plant, in Kolin, 60 km east of Prague, will start operating in 2005 and is expected to produce 300,000 units a year. It will be Toyota’s third production base in Europe after plants in Britain and France.

The ceremony was attended by Toyota Motor President Fujio Cho, Jean-Martin Folz, chairman of PSA Peugeot Citroen, and senior Czech Republic officials.

Toyota and PSA will invest a total of 170 billion yen in the project, with Toyota providing gasoline engines and PSA contributing diesel engines and other equipment, officials at the two companies said.

The two companies hope to take advantage of inexpensive labor in central and eastern Europe as well as the Czech Republic’s location at the heart of the European continent and its developed distribution networks, they said.

Toyota and PSA will jointly develop and produce vehicles, mainly for the European market, under the Toyota, Peugeot and Citroen brands.

They plan to provide inexpensive and fuel-efficient cars when European countries impose stricter environmental regulations, according to the officials.

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