You will be redirected to the page you want to view in seconds.
Nissan plans to add 1,000 jobs at Middle Tennessee plant
1st luxury car comes off assembly line
4:16 AM, Feb. 21, 2012 |
Fuel economy: 21 mpg
Fuel economy: 21 mpg
SMYRNA — Nissans first $40,000-plus luxury Infiniti JX crossover rolled off the assembly line here at midday Monday, but thats just the start of a giant boost from the Asian carmakers plant over the next year.
Total employment at the Smyrna plant could be pushing 6,000 workers nearly double its current level by early next year as workers build two new crossover utility vehicles plus batteries and eventually the Leaf electric car here.
Nissan said 1,000 jobs would be filled over the next year to staff a second shift on the plants truck line to assemble the JX, the first of which was shown Monday, and a redesigned Nissan Pathfinder crossover that comes later this year.
In addition, about 1,300 workers will be hired to make lithium-ion batteries for the Nissan Leaf electric car and to add Leaf production to the Smyrna plant in early 2013, the company said earlier. The plant currently employs 3,500 workers.
The battery facility is adjacent to the assembly plant and is nearing completion.
The first sellable JX came off the assembly line Monday and was showered with confetti during a 30-minute ceremony to mark production of the first luxury vehicle to be built at the plant since it opened 29 years ago.
Its also the first luxury vehicle built in Tennessee, which has a long history in auto manufacturing, including General Motors work in Spring Hill and the new Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga as well as dozens of parts suppliers.
This launch is second in importance only to the original launch (of the Nissan compact pickup) in 1983, said Mark Swenson, vice president of production engineering for Nissan Americas.
Its a lot of responsibility, Swenson said of the plants move to make luxury cars. Quality is the key.
All of Infinitis other vehicles are now made in Japan, although the Canton, Miss., factory previously assembled the Infiniti QX56 full-size sport utility.
(Page 2 of 2)
As Nissans luxury brand, similar to the role of Lexus in Toyotas lineup, Infinitis products are expected to have a high level of craftsmanship not generally found in less expensive, mass-market vehicles.
Building here will save money
Building the luxury vehicle in Smyrna, rather than importing it from Japan, will help lessen the bite on Nissans profits from the strong value of the Japanese yen versus the U.S. dollar, said Bill Kruger, vice chairman of the Franklin-based Nissan Americas.
During the next two years, the company plans to increase its North American production to supply at least 85 percent of the vehicles that Nissan sells on this continent, Kruger said. Thats up from 70 percent last year.
In 2011, Nissan assembled more than 1.2 million vehicles in North America.
Building 85 percent of the vehicles here rather than in Japan will lower the impact of the yen by 50 percent, Kruger said. When the value of the yen is high, production of vehicles destined for the U.S. market is more expensive in Japan because those vehicles, when sold here, are being paid for with U.S. dollars.
U.S. production of the Leaf will begin early next year at Smyrna, and an additional 90 workers will be hired to make electric motors for the Leaf at Nissans engine plant in Decherd. That facility now has 800 employees. The motor work is separate from jobs created in Smyrna for lithium-ion battery production tied to the Leaf.
Meanwhile, the seven-passenger JX, which begins at just under $41,000, will go on sale as soon as the vehicles begin arriving at dealerships, Kruger said, most likely sometime in mid-March.
No prices have been announced yet for the new Pathfinder, which is also a seven-passenger crossover. Crossover utility vehicles differ from conventional SUVs in that they are made on a carlike unibody chassis, which combines body and chassis into one piece. The new Pathfinder will replace the current truck-based Pathfinder SUV.
Keep up with the protests at Legislative Plaza and the legal battles surrounding them.
Copyright © 2012 www.tennessean.com. All rights reserved.