Nissan North America Inc. (NNA) has announced it is entering the light commercial vehicle (LCV) arena with vehicles designed specifically for the North American market. “The LCV [line] will be launched in 2010 with three vehicles in three years,” Brian Brockman, Midwest region communications manager for Nissan North America, told Fleet Owner. He noted the first LCV will be released during the first half of that year.

The announcement by the U.S.-based subsidiary of the Japanese automaker comes two years after Fleet Owner first reported that Nissan was forming an operation to compete in the North American light-commercial market.

NNA's LCV lineup will be built at a Nissan plant in Canton, MS, with the OEM shifting production of the Nissan Quest minivan and Infiniti QX56 SUV to other facilities to gain the capacity needed for LCV production.

The company said it is partnering with Cummins Inc. on the development of two diesel engines specifically for the new line, both of which will meet 2010 EPA and CARB standards and be manufactured in the U.S. Newly designed automatic transmissions will be supplied by Germany's ZF Friedrichshafen AG, NNA added.

“We do very well with LCVs in a lot of the world, but the U.S. hasn't been [a market] we've tapped into,” Brockman said. “This is an opportunity to expand our business.” According to the company, Nissan LCVs are sold in 73% of the world's markets, including Japan, China, Mexico, Europe and the Middle East, with global sales of 518,000 units in the 2007 fiscal year.

Joe Castelli, recently named vp of light commercial vehicle and fleet for NNA, will lead the business unit, overseeing development, sales, marketing, service and distribution. Castelli joined NNA from Ford Motor Co., where he worked for 23 years in various positions, including director of commercial truck sales and marketing.

The LCV dealer network will be selected from existing Nissan dealers, which will become specialized centers for sales and services of the product, the company said.

According to Ward's Automotive Reports, the LCV line will ultimately include three vehicles with GVW ratings under 16,000 lbs. One model may be a heavy pickup, as Ward's reports that a heavy-duty version of the Titan full-size pickup has “long been rumored.”