(Corrects paragraph six to show zero star safety rating was given in past, not on Wednesday)
MEXICO CITY, Oct 26 (Reuters) - Nissan Motor Co Ltd said on Wednesday it will stop production in May of the Mexican-built Tsuru, an economical and hardy sedan beloved by taxi drivers but often sold without airbags and widely criticized for its poor crash record.
In production since the early 1980s, the Tsuru has been a cash cow for Nissan and is one of the oldest car models still manufactured globally.
It was many Mexicans' first car and came to challenge the Volkswagen Beetle as the country's veteran vehicle.
"This popular vehicle, with more the 2.4 million sales until now, has offered accessible, economical and trustworthy mobility for drivers in the country and in other markets, for more than three decades," Nissan said in a statement.
But its dismal safety record has increasingly made it a focus of criticism. The car was involved in over 4,000 deaths in Mexico between 2007 and 2012, safety organization NCAP said earlier this year.
NCAP has previously given the version of the Tsuru sold with no airbags a zero star safety rating.
A Global NCAP and the Inter-American Development Bank safety report published on Wednesday concluded that more than 440,000 deaths and serious injuries could be prevented and up to $143 billion saved if basic U.N. vehicle regulations were applied in major Latin American countries.
Nissan said it will cease production in Mexico by May 2017 but will continue to support Tsuru customers by offering service, parts for repairs and maintenance of vehicles for the foreseeable future.
The Japanese company said overall production volume in Mexico would not be affected by the move because it was increasing output of other models at two plants in the central state of Aguascalientes.
A new Daimler and Renault -Nissan alliance joint-venture manufacturing complex will start production in Aguascalientes in late 2017, the company said. (Reporting by Frank Jack Daniel and Brad Brooks; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe)