Nissan will launch the Pulsar to rival the VW Golf

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LONDON -- Nissan said its new compact model for Europe will be called the Pulsar. The car will be a rival to vehicles such as the Volkswagen Golf and Ford Focus.

The "spacious" five-door hatchback has been designed to meet the specific demands of European car buyers, Nissan said in a statement today.

The Pulsar will go on sale in the autumn and will be built at Nissan's factory in Barcelona, Spain, where the automaker is adding 80,000 units of annual capacity for the model.

Nissan has not sold a compact hatchback in western Europe since it dropped the poor-selling Almera in 2006. Launching a mainstream competitor in the key segment is crucial to achieving its goal of becoming the top-selling Asian automaker in Europe ahead of Toyota by 2016.

Nissan Executive Vice President Andy Palmer said at the Geneva auto show in March that the brand now has much bigger brand recognition than when it sold the Almera. "Nissan was in that segment for a long time but we didn’t stand for anything. What has changed is that is we invented the Qashqai and that has transformed the car landscape,” he said.

Nissan could have a tough task re-establishing itself in the compact segment, according to industry watchers. Europe's compact market has changed significantly in recent years, IHS Automotive analyst Ian Fletcher said. "Customers demand reliability and perceived quality that in the past would have been the preserve of far more expensive vehicles," he said.

Nissan introduced the Pulsar name in 1978 and it was widely used for models in Asian and Australasian markets. The Pulsar badge also appeared in some European markets in the early 1990s on the N14 model.

The Almera badge is still used for a budget compact model sold by Nissan in Russia.

The Pulsar will be underpinned by Renault-Nissan's new CMF (common module family) platform, which is also used on the new Qashqai and the X-Trail SUVs.

You can reach Nick Gibbs at nick.gibbs@btinternet.com.

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