Betting consumers are ready to give next-generation diesel a chance, Nissan plans to launch a clean diesel sport/utility vehicle in Japan this fall and plans to introduce a clean-diesel version of its Nissan Maxima passenger car in the U.S. in 2010, according to USA Today.

The automaker said it will send a prototype of its X-TRAIL SUV to July’s Group of Eight leaders’ summit in Toyako, Japan, where climate change tops the agenda.

Nissan says the eco-friendly M9R engine can deliver powerful acceleration along with emission levels low enough to meet tougher Japanese regulations slated for October 2009. The diesel SUV is based on technology developed with French partner Renault.

Diesel vehicles are popular in Europe, but Japanese and U.S. drivers have been less enthusiastic about diesel-powered cars. Japanese and German automakers, however, have been investing heavily in clean diesel technology. Nissan decided to showcase its new diesel technology in an SUV to maximize its strengths, namely power and fuel efficiency over long distances, said Yo Usuba, Nissan’s senior vice president for power train development.

The new X-TRAIL can get up to 30 percent better mileage than its gasoline-based counterparts and has similar torque to a six-cylinder, 3.5-liter gasoline engine.

Honda Motor announced in January that its luxury Acura brand would have a clean diesel model in North America in 2009, according to USA Today.