SAN FRANCISCO -- Nissan will sell the boxy Cube in North America around 2007, but the company won't say on the record if it is coming to the United States.
Sold in Japan, the Cube has an unusual design that conventional wisdom said wouldn't fly in North America --until the Scion xB and Honda Element proved boxy can sell here.
Nissan plans to expand sales of the next-generation Cube "to new countries including North America," said Mario Canavesi, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Nissan Europe, at a press event here two weeks ago.
Mitsuhiko Yamashita, senior vice president at the company's advanced vehicle engineering department, said, "It looks likely that the Cube will come to the United States, but it is not definite."
Still undecided are the vehicle's horsepower and styling, he said. The current Cube has only 98 hp. The company must decide if the extreme boxy styling of the Cube will remain popular in 2007.
However, a company executive, who declined to be named, said that the next-generation Cube will be sold in the United States around 2007.
Cube, Sentra different
While the Cube will be smaller than the redesigned Sentra that bows next year, the Cube's price in North America won't necessarily be lower than the Sentra's.
"The cars are very different concepts," said Steve Wilhite, vice president of global marketing for Nissan Motor Co. "Sometimes you can have products that serve very different functions and very different audiences that have very similar prices," Pricing and positioning have yet to be completed, Wilhite said.
The Sentra, whose base sticker is $12,470 including the destination charge, is Nissan's lowest-price vehicle in the U.S. market. The Cube is 154 inches long vs. 177.5 for the current Sentra.
Two versions of the four-door Cube are sold in Japan: a model with two rows of seating and a stretched version with three. Only the stretched version is likely to be offered in North America, said the unnamed Nissan source, although the final decision has not been made.
The current Cube is powered by a four-cylinder engine that produces 98 hp and a 101 pounds-feet of torque. A larger platform might be needed for the next-generation Cube to accommodate the larger size and power desired by U.S. drivers, Nissan's Yamshita said.Target: Scion xB
The Cube will target the Scion xB.
"Both are highly practical cars with a high emphasis on interior space and functionality in a very small exterior package," said Wilhite. "I like to believe our car is a little funkier from a design standpoint and that ours performs a little better."
Added Wilhite: "The fact that Xb has enjoyed initial market acceptance is really encouraging for us."
Last year Toyota sold 6,936 Scion xB units, nearly all in California. Toyota is rolling the xB out to all regions in the United States this year. Nissan is expecting the Cube's sales to emulate the Xb's, said the Nissan source.
Yet to be determined is whether the vehicle will be assembled in Mexico or Japan.
While Toyota created the Scion brand for a family of youth-oriented vehicles, Nissan will sell the Cube under the Nissan banner, said Wilhite.
Staff Reporter Kathy Jackson contributed to this report.