TOKYO - Nissan Motor will start producing mini-vehicles, a special category of small cars in Japan, as early as next year in a bid to maintain its jobs and production level, a report said Saturday.
The move would mark the first time that Nissan producing "kei" category cars, defined as automobiles with engines of 660cc or smaller.
The firm has been selling such models made by Suzuki and Mitsubishi Motor under its brand since the early 2000s.
Nissan will stop buying kei vehicles from Suzuki, while deepening its ties with Mitsubishi, the Nikkei said.
The report came after Renault-Nissan and Mitsubishi announced on Tuesday that they would broaden their strategic cooperation to share the production of vehicles, technology and factory capacity and highlighted the development of electric cars.
In 2011, Mitsubishi and Nissan created a joint company called NMKV to develop kei cars.
Mitsubishi is already producing a mini-vehicle model jointly developed with Nissan, and plans to produce the second model to come out of the joint programme, the Nikkei said.
But Nissan would produce the third model to be developed from the Nissan-Mitsubishi cooperation, the Nikkei added.
The move should help offset the impact of Nissan's decision to bring production of sports utility vehicles the United States from Japanese plants.
The planned production of mini-vehicles should fill the idle capacity of Japanese factories to keep domestic output at 1 million units a year, the level needed to maintain employment, the Nikkei said.
Mini-vehicles, which are fuel efficient and come with smaller taxes, account for 39 percent of all new-auto sales in Japan.
By launching mini-vehicle production, Nissan seeks to acquire related know-how for future growth, the Nikkei said.