Next plant is critical to Nissan's export plans
NASHVILLE -- Nissan Motor Co. is facing new questions to determine what its North American factory needs will be in five years.
Chief among them: How to support a growing ambition to export vehicles from the United States and Mexico?
That will be a further complication for Nissan as it attempts to fuel higher U.S. sales. Its two factories in the United States and two in Mexico are having a hard time keeping up with plans to enter new product segments, re-source vehicles currently made in Japan, and support growing sales in the United States, Mexico and Brazil.
Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn revealed this month that he is already considering another North American plant project for 2017, even though Nissan just began construction of a $2 billion small-vehicle plant in Aguascalientes, Mexico, in July.
The Aguascalientes plant will supply B-segment vehicles that are in tight supply across the region. The other plant would be critical to Nissan's plans to export more of its North American products to markets around the world.
"As we reach into markets outside the United States, we're going to need a lot more Altimas," says David Reuter, chief spokesman for Nissan Americas. "Our export business is growing, and we will continue expanding it."
U.S.-built Altimas already are shipped into 45 export markets. The demand is there, but not the available factory capacity, Reuter said. Nissan also anticipates expanded exports for its new-generation Sentra.
Ghosn's Americas team has its hands full with a broadening mission. Ghosn has targeted a U.S. market share of 10 percent for the Nissan and Infiniti brands combined, up from 7.9 percent through October. The Nissan brand's market share in Mexico is now 25 percent.
Nissan also is chasing higher sales in Brazil, an activity that has been siphoning off factory capacity from Nissan's plants in Mexico for the past two years. And to complicate its factory planning further, Nissan also is attempting to replace assembly lines in Japan that have been made less profitable because of the high value of the Japanese yen.
The company is nearing completion of an expansion of its factory in Smyrna, Tenn., to produce the brisk-selling Rogue crossover.
Two years ago when Nissan was forecasting Rogue sales of about 100,000 a year, the company launched a project to get 120,000 Rogues a year out of Smyrna, giving it a little elbow room on the product. But as the project now reaches the finish line, Nissan is forecasting Rogue sales of about 150,000 a year.
This summer the company said it will create still another Rogue production source in South Korea that will supply up to 80,000 additional Rogues to U.S. retailers.
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