Tue, Nov 21, 2017 - Page 10 News List

Nissan hints at building US plant


Nissan Motor Co is squeezing all it can from its US assembly plants and will need to build a new factory if it keeps growing in the lucrative US auto market, a top executive said.

“At some point, we may need it,” Nissan North America chairman Jose Munoz said on Friday in reference to more US production capacity.

The addition would have to be a standalone new factory because the company’s existing plants in Tennessee and Mississippi are “maxed out,” Munoz said during an interview in Detroit.

Building another factory in the US would likely appease US President Donald Trump, who has pressured Japanese car manufacturers to make more vehicles in America. While Nissan already has the most productive auto plant in all of North America in Smyrna, Tennessee, the company also imports several models from Japan and is the top car producer in Mexico.

Trump prodded Japanese automakers during a visit to Tokyo earlier this month to “try building your cars in the US instead of shipping them over.”

He praised Toyota Motor Corp and Mazda Motor Corp’s plan to build a US$1.6 billion joint car factory at a still-undecided US site, an investment that Trump called “big stuff.”

Nissan’s US sales have increased about 70 percent over the last six years, and the automaker’s strategic plan through 2022 calls for further expansion, Munoz said.

The company sold about 1.6 million cars and trucks in the US last year.

More than 8,000 workers make vehicles and battery packs at Nissan’s Tennessee complex that produced more than 640,000 autos last year, including Leaf electric cars, Altima and Maxima sedans and Infiniti QX60 sport utility vehicles.

Its Mississippi operation employs 6,400 people making Titan pickups, cargo vans and Altima sedans among others.

“The strategy of localization has allowed us to grow big-time in the states,” Munoz said.

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