Nissan enters stock car racing in Australia, what about here?

TOKYO -- Nissan Motor Co. is off to the stock car races. In Australia, at least.

This month, the Japanese carmaker said it will field four cars in the county’s V8 Supercar Championship starting in 2013.

For those not familiar with the series, it’s Down Under’s equivalent to NASCAR. And until Nissan’s gambit, the competition has been dominated by only two vehicles, the Ford Falcon and Holden Commodore from General Motors.

Nissan’s move is reminiscent of Toyota’s decision in 2006 to join NASCAR. That bid aimed to underscore Toyota’s U.S. manufacturing roots and ingratiate the Japanese brand with a skeptical customer base in the American heartland.

"We are targeting No.1 importer status in Australia and already making progress towards that as one of the country’s fastest growing brands. V8 Supercars will boost that momentum," Nissan Australia CEO Dan Thompson said in a statement of Nissan’s intentions.

Nissan hasn’t disclosed what body the Nissan race car will get. Nissan Australia spokesman Jeffrey Fisher will only say it will be a four-door sedan that will feature in Nissan’s local lineup within the next two years.

Right now, Nissan offers only one sedan -- the Maxima -- Down Under.

In NASCAR, Toyota competes with a Camry shell.

Could Nissan be pondering a similar racing debut in NASCAR to boost brand recognition in the United States, its second-biggest market and region where CEO Carlos Ghosn is chasing 10 percent market share? Don’t bet on it.

Says spokesman Chris Keeffe: "At the present time, Nissan does not have the intention of joining NASCAR/stock car racing."

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