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Nissan Motor Co. plans to launch almost its entire lineup of passenger cars in China, expecting the country to grow into a huge auto market, according to Nissan President Carlos Ghosn.

“We are going to China to have a full lineup,” ranging from large models to small cars, excluding minicars, Ghosn said in an interview Wednesday with Kyodo News.

It currently markets only Bluebird sedans in China that are produced under license.

The plan is in line with accelerating moves by major competitors, including Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co., to advance into the country of 1.3 billion people, encouraged by China’s entry into the World Trade Organization in December.

“We have different projects that we are discussing now,” Ghosn said when asked about his plans for China through 2004.

Nissan had been in jeopardy of collapsing before Renault SA of France bought a controlling stake in the carmaker several years ago. Now, with its finances rapidly improving — a record consolidated net profit is expected for the business year that ended last month — it is beginning to implement its China strategy.

This month, it set up a division dedicated to China operations and increased stakes in local partners.

In addition, Nissan is in tieup talks with Dong Feng Automobile Co., one of China’s three major automakers, to locally produce compact cars. It expects to soon set up full-fledged manufacturing and sales networks.

“I don’t see how we can go into the Chinese market without small cars,” Ghosn said. “There is the need for an entry-level car, no doubt about it.”

Ghosn suggested that Nissan could model these cars on the March compact, which is gaining popularity in Japan.

Nissan and a commercial vehicle maker of the Dong Feng group have been jointly assembling Datsun pickup trucks in China since 1995.

The carmaker plans to boost its global sales by 1 million to 3.6 million units by the end of 2004 focusing on China as an important market to catch up with rivals such as Toyota and Honda.

In October, Toyota is slated to launch the production of Vitz-based small cars, targeting output of 30,000 cars annually.

On Wednesday, Honda began to put out Odyssey minivans at a joint venture it has set up with a Chinese partner, its second local production after Accord sedans it marketed in 1999.

Car sales in China totaled 2.35 million units last year but are expected to rapidly expand due to China’s business climate improving with the country’s admission to the Geneva-based world trade body.

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