Nissan Motor said on Thursday it would launch 10 new models in the Gulf states over the next 18 months, including the Z sports car, as it relies on the Middle East to help drive rapid sales growth worldwide, Reuters reported.

The report said Nissan gave no sales target for the region, but said it would play a significant role in achieving its broader goal of boosting global sales by 40%, or one million units, in the three years to 2005 under its Nissan 180 plan.

According to Reuters, Nissan last year sold 72,562 vehicles in the six Gulf states - comprising Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman and Bahrain - and about half went to Saudi Arabia.

"With 10 new products in the coming 18 months, we expect to see significant growth contributing towards Nissan 180," senior vice president Jean-Jacques Le Goff reportedly said in a speech at the Dubai Motor Show, where Nissan unveiled some of its upcoming models.

"And in the coming years we will continue to launch strong products, making the (Gulf states) a real opportunity even beyond our Nissan 180 growth plans," he said, according to a copy of the speech obtained by Reuters in Tokyo.

The news agency noted that Nissan has historically been a dominant player in the region along with domestic rival Toyota Motor, but its market share has fallen in recent years to around 15% from a high of 18% in 1997.

"Growth in the Middle East market itself is not so high, but...if we look at our product line-up, we have more potential (there)," senior vice president Toshiyuki Shiga, who heads Nissan's general overseas market operations outside of the United States, Japan and Europe, told Reuters in an interview this week.

According to Reuters, Nissan does not disclose its profits in the Middle East, but a spokeswoman reportedly said the region had a "relatively high" profit margin compared to that of its general overseas market, which was 7.3% in the six months to September compared with a profit margin of 2.0% in Europe and 11.3% overall.

Reuters said Nissan's aggressive product offensive in the Gulf begins with the introduction of the 350Z sports car this month, followed shortly by Altima mid-size sedan, sales target 18,000, which will be imported from the United States.

Other Nissan models headed to the region include the X-Trail recreational vehicle, the Pathfinder and Patrol off-roaders, new Maxima and Sunny sedans, and several models from the luxury Infiniti line, the report added.