North American Int’l Auto ShowDETROIT – Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. doesn’t have too many holes in its U.S. lineup.

However, one thing it lacks is a small cross/utility vehicle, something that would compete with the Chevy Equinox, Honda CR-V, Hyundai Tucson and Ford Escape.

Nissan sells the outdoor-oriented X-Trail model, built on the unibody C platform, to much success elsewhere in the world, including Canada.

But asked whether a vehicle like the X-Trail or something more along the lines of a baby Murano would be the better fit for the U.S., a Nissan executive replies, “Why not both?

“That’s my joke,” Carlos Tavares, executive vice president-product planning for Nissan, tells Ward’s in an interview at the North American International Auto Show here.

“You can imagine one kind of answer for one kind of customer and another for customers that are sensitive to the outdoor life.”

He says those buyers who aren’t “outdoor-oriented” likely would not be interested in the X-Trail.

Nissan X-Trail: Coming to America?

“I suppose that making the right research would lead us to the possibility of us having different kinds of offerings in the CUV segment,” Tavares says. “I don’t view it as being totally contradictory. Obviously, there is a certain level of (sales) cannibalism because of the target customer.”

However, he says if Nissan were to focus two divergent small CUV models properly, “I think we could target to different kinds of people.”

Tavares does not provide a timeline as to when the U.S. might see a small CUV from Nissan but says, “Anything is possible. The current X-Trail is a good success in Canada, that’s a fact.”

He suggests selling the X-Trail in the U.S. wouldn’t be a monumental leap for Nissan, which already offers the larger Xterra SUV for buyers with active, outdoor lifestyles.

One CUV possibility, he says, that is not suitable for the American market is the Qashqai, which was shown in concept form at the 2004 Geneva auto show and will go on sale in Europe in early 2007.

“It’s probably a little too compact for the U.S.,” Tavares says, adding it is “much” smaller than the old Toyota RAV4. Toyota Motor Corp. recently redesigned the RAV4, making it bigger. (See related story: '06 RAV4 Starts at $20,300 )

cschweinsberg@primediabusiness.com