Nissan preps Sentra for run at Corolla, Civic
NASHVILLE -- Nissan North America is preparing for its run on the compact sedan market next year by adding North American factory capacity for the Sentra.
The Sentra will be redesigned for the 2013 model year, and Nissan officials hope to make it a more serious rival to the segment-dominating Toyota Corolla and Honda Civic. Those cars routinely outsell the Sentra more than 2 to 1.
Last week Nissan said it will spend $23 million to mix Sentra production into its existing lines at Canton, Miss., where it also builds the Altima, light trucks and commercial vans. Nissan told employees it will add 600 hourly workers at the plant, bringing its hourly work force up to 4,500.
Dan Bednarzyk, vice president of manufacturing for Canton, declined to say how many Sentras the plant will be able to produce next year. He said capacity is flexible because the plant can shift among vehicles.
In the first five months of 2012, Nissan sold 46,773 Sentras, down 18 percent from the same period a year ago. By comparison, Honda sold 135,082 Civics through May and Toyota sold 125,079 Corollas.
Domestic models in the segment have come on strong, too. Through May, Ford sold 110,237 Focuses and Chevrolet sold 94,901 Cruzes.
The Sentra now is built in Aguascalientes, Mexico, and will continue there after the Canton line is launched in the fourth quarter. The Mississippi plant will produce only U.S. versions of the car.
Nissan's Mexico factory is being cramped by success. That plant builds the Versa for the United States, Mexico and various other markets. And Nissan sales in Mexico have grown to just under a 25 percent market share.
The factory change is one of several Nissan sourcing moves. The company is moving output of the Rogue crossover and the electric Leaf to Smyrna, Tenn., and moving the Xterra SUV and Frontier compact pickup from Smyrna to Canton.
Nissan has not revealed specifically what it intends to do with a $2 billion factory project that it has begun building near its existing factory in Aguascalientes.
Last week the company began recruiting the 3,000 workers needed for the first phase of the project. A second phase will follow, but details haven't been announced.
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