Nissan Motor is pinning its future on technology, R&D and emerging markets, according to president and CEO Carlos Ghosn.

Speaking at a media event in Portugal, at which the company showed off about 60 models sold in a variety of markets, he said Nissan was emphasising research and new technology and that it was "time for zero emission cars."

He said Nissan would start selling electric cars in the US in 2010. "We've decided on electric," he said, adding that the line-up would have "mass-market" appeal.

Referring to previously-announced projects for Alliance partner Renault to sell electric cars in Israel and Denmark (both from 2011), Ghosn said "companies, governments and cities - all are interested in electric cars."

He would not give details but said even one "Gulf state" had begun negotiations to launch electric cars. Such was the demand for oil, the state was looking to diminish some of its own needs for the fuel.

Ghosn said Nissan would position the electric as "the car of the 21st" century. It would have a "nice design and be good to drive". The battery and car in total had to be cheaper to buy and run than a petrol model, too.

"The way you lease and charge the battery has to be cheap," he said.

Asked about biofuel, the Nissan chief said there was a limit on it becoming mainstream as it depended on the food/fuel balance.

"It's OK in Brazil where there's lots of land. We're a little cautious though it makes sense in some markets."

Ghosn said he was "convinced" that car demand was growing in emerging markets.

"There's no growth in established markets. Japan and western Europe are stagnant and we see the US falling until 2010 - emerging markets are where the growth is."

He said Nissan was ready. "The period of revival and re-tooling is finished. The company is ready to compete on an even footing with any other, especially on technology."

He said that auto industry analysts had calculated that only the Nissan-Renault alliance had created value and that Nissan's future growth depended on its "ability to innovate".

Ghosn said the US had 800 cars to 1,000 inhabitants and most established markets had around 600/1,000. Amongst emerging markets, Russia had 200/1,000, Brazil 150, and China and India under 50.

"You will not stop people wanting cars," Ghosn said, adding that hiking the rate of ownership in EMs to "just 400 or 500 is huge growth".

He said the alliance would expand "strategically" only if tie-ups add value and allow "more use of technology". For example, the recent AvtoVAZ/Renault deal adds 900,000 more Renault-based cars to be built.

He added that the recent Chrysler OEM deals (Nissan making small cars for Chrysler returning the favour with large trucks) make sense because "each company is using its expertise to build specific models".

Ghosn also confirmed that the next-generation Cube - currently for Japan only - would be offered to all markets.

Graeme Roberts