Today, Nissan joined the long list of automakers worried about the weak U.S. economy. It released its earnings report, and along with the warning about the tougher times ahead came a pledge.

Nissan's CEO said he wants to make his company the global leader in producing zero-emission vehicles, and he wants to do it over the next five years. Some industry analysts reacted with skepticism since up to this point. Nissan has not led the pact in hybrid or electric research.

Dustin Dwyer of Michigan Radio has this story on Nissan's aspirations.

DUSTIN DWYER: Carlos Ghosn is a revered figure at Nissan. Born in Brazil, raised in France, Ghosn is considered the man who saved Nissan from bankruptcy. Today in Tokyo, Ghosn stood in front of a room full of photographers, and he made a simple case for electric cars. He said the number of people buying cars around the world is going up. At the same time, the need to cut emissions is getting more desperate.

CARLOS GHOSN: There is a perceived conflict between the demand for more cars and the demand for a cleaner planet - 10, 20 or 30 percent lower emissions cannot be the only answer.

DWYER: So Ghosn said 100 percent lower emissions should be the goal. Other executives in the auto industry have made this case before, but when they talked about building zero-emission cars, they talk about doing it a decade for now. But Ghosn says he plans to get a pollution-free vehicle on the road much sooner.

GHOSN: Today, there is latent global demand, but no offer. Nissan has an opportunity to mass market an affordable car that is both independent from oil and environmentally neutral.

DWYER: Ghosn says Nissan will have these cars on the road in two years for government fleets in the U.S. and Japan. He says the cars will be a mass production by 2012.

STEPHANIE BRINLEY: Its feel like a target that I'm not sure they're going to make.

WELNA: Stephanie Brinley is an industry analyst with AutoPacific. She says Nissan is far behind Toyota and General Motors in developing a new high-powered battery that's needed for an electric car. But even if Nissan can get a battery breakthrough, Brinley says the company will still have to convince people that electric cars are worth buying.

BRINLEY: Particularly with the U.S. market, we haven't been all that accepting of electric vehicles before. So, it has to be something pretty darn amazing to really get us to think about it.

WELNA: It is possible to buy an electric or zero-emissions car in U.S., but not from a major auto manufacturer. And for the most part, the cars are tiny and they can't go very far. Then there's the Tesla, a sleek two-seater, but its cost puts it out of reach for most consumers. Brinley says to be successful, Nissan has to do better. And she says in the end, what's most important is that Nissan gets electric cars right, not that it gets them first.

From NPR News, I'm Dustin Dwyer in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

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