LONDON (Kyodo) Nissan Motor Co. on Wednesday unveiled the Qashqai, a sport utility vehicle initially aimed at the European market.

Nissan introduced the compact vehicle at an event in Paris hosted by President and Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn, the automaker said in a news release.

“Inspired by the concept car of the same name that was presented at the 2004 Geneva Motor Show, the Qashqai is a new vehicle for Nissan in Europe, with sales starting in February 2007,” Nissan said.

The designing of the Qashqai was led by Nissan Design Europe and represents the first new vehicle it has turned out since moving to London in 2003, the firm said. The development program was led by Nissan Technical Centre Europe, based in Cranfield, England.

The vehicle will sell in Europe for about $28,000 and will be produced at Nissan’s factory in Sunderland, England.

With Nissan looking to produce 100,000 Qashqai cars annually, it is set to invest over 300 million euro ($383 million) in the project.

Ghosn said the Qashqai will be the “first major Nissan program to be led wholly from Europe,” with every stage of the operation from design and technical development to production all uniquely taking place in Britain.

Despite the collapse of MG Rover, and ongoing problems at Jaguar, Peugeot and Vauxhall, Japanese automakers are still investing heavily in Britain, with Nissan, Toyota and Honda likely to account for more than half of British car production in 2006.

The Qashqai will also be exported from the Sunderland factory to Japan — where it will be called Dualis — the Middle East and other overseas markets, Nissan said.

The new vehicle will have four engine options — 1.5-liter and 2.0-liter diesels and 1.6-liter and 2.0-liter gasoline models.

“We expect Qashqai will sell more than 100,000 units a year on average across Europe — with 80 percent of those customers buying a Nissan for the first time.” Ghosn said at the launch in Paris.

Nissan is to create 200 temporary jobs in time for the December start of production of the new Qashqai at its Sunderland car plant, in northeastern England.

The firm is also set to take on 100 apprentices on a two-year program, with potential for permanent jobs on the Nissan line at the end of their terms.

The news comes as a welcome boost to the struggling British automobile industry, adding to the current 4,400-strong workforce at Nissan’s Sunderland factory, which has seen more than 4 million cars roll off its line since it began operating in 1984.

“Qashqai demonstrates our confidence in Sunderland’s capacity to make high quality, globally competitive products,” Ghosn said.

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