Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. is poised to enter vehicle production in China through a joint venture with No.2 Chinese automaker Dongfeng Automotive Group. The two automakers, which currently participate in a technical tie-up that produces the Nissan Bluebird, are discussing the details of an equity JV to produce compact cars, officials say.

The vehicle most likely would be based on the March subcompact car, known as the Micra in Europe. The venture, which Nissan Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn says would be a full-fledged operation involving production, parts and a dealer network, could start as early as 2003. Mr. Ghosn recently visited China, ostensibly to participate in the lecture circuit.

Nissan's domestic rivals, Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. Ltd., in recent years have launched successful JVs in China, and analysts say Nissan is seeking a similar foothold in China's emerging auto market. While the two automakers reportedly have agreed in principle to pursue the venture, they await government approval.