Record high oil prices and sluggish sales are forcing the world's biggest automakers to turn to electricity to power their vehicles.

Nissan Motor Company is the latest automaker to move in that direction, officially announcing Tuesday it plans to introduce an all-electric vehicle for sale in the United States and Japan by 2010.

Nissan's chief executive officer says the company will mass-market electric cars globally by 2012.

Nissan also forecast its profits will decline by 30 percent this year to $3.4 billion compared to $4.6 billion last year.

Nissan, Japan's number three automaker, joins Toyota and Honda in predicting smaller profits, as car buyers shun fuel-thirsty vehicles.

The senior editor of the Web site, John O'Dell, tells VOA many auto industry executives will be watching Nissan to see if its electric car venture succeeds.  He says Nissan is trying to become the market leader by being the first major automaker to promise - and deliver - an all-electric vehicle for sale in a large market by a certain date.

The associate editor of the Web site, Mike Sutton, says the announcement is "fairly significant," but Nissan's move is mostly about market positioning.

Sutton tells VOA that other major automakers are also planning to introduce electric-powered vehicles in 2010.

American car company Chevrolet plans to introduce the Volt, a plug-in hybrid, in 2010.  And Toyota says it will unveil the next generation of Prius hybrid vehicles the same year. 

Hybrids use less fuel than conventional vehicles because they combine a gasoline engine with high-tech batteries and electric motors.

Chrysler, Mitsubishi and Subaru are also working on electric cars.

Fuel-efficient vehicles have recently been the lone bright spot for the auto industry. Toyota says sales of its hybrid cars have jumped 42 percent in the past year.  Some dealerships in the United States say they have waiting lists for would-be buyers.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.