Beijing Jeep Corp, jointly held by Mitsubishi Motors and Daimler Chrysler AG, is moving into China’s expanding market for sport utility vehicles (SUVs) with the launch of the Pajero Sport, Reuters reported.

The company aims to sell 20,000 units this year and 40,000 to 50,000 units next year, Wei-ming Soh, Beijing Jeep’s sales and marketing manager, told Reuters at the launch on Friday.

The Chinese-made Pajero Sport, available in 2.4-litre and 2.35-litre models, will retail between 219,000 yuan ($US26,460) and 349,000 yuan, towards the top end of the market but cheaper than the higher-end imported Pajero [Shogun], Reuters said.

The news agency said the new SUV will compete directly with Toyota’s Landcruiser, Honda’s CRV, General Motors’ Chevrolet Blazer and Nissan’s Paladin SUV.

The Pajero Sport is the first own-brand Mitsubishi product to be made by Beijing Jeep, Reuters noted.

The licensing and technical agreement was only signed nine months ago, Hideyasu Tagaya, Mitsubishi’s corporate general manager for Asia, Latin America, the Middle East and Africa, told Reuters.

“We see China as a key market,” Tagaya added. Mitsubishi expects overall sales of SUVs in China to double to 128,000 by 2010.