Nissan has begun building transaxle assemblies for its Tennessee-built Altima sedans.
The component marks the second phase at Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corp. U.S.A.'s new powertrain assembly complex in Decherd, Tenn. The plant began building four-cylinder 2.4-liter Altima engines last year.
The transaxles are assembled from 432 parts from 23 suppliers. Currently, 20 of the suppliers are located in the United States, and two others will open U.S. operations this year.
This summer, Decherd will further expand transaxle assembly to supply the Nissan Quest/Mercury Villager minivans made by Ford Motor Co. in Avon Lake, Ohio.
Nissan is a key supplier to that program. It also supplies stamped body parts from the Nissan vehicle assembly plant in Smyrna, Tenn.
Decherd represents an $80 million investment for Nissan. The automaker has indicated additional powertrain work could be performed at the site in coming years. Nissan has approval to issue up to $1 billion in bonds to finance investment in the site.
At one time, Nissan proposed the Decherd plant as a $600 million engine plant, complete with parts machining operations. It shelved that plan following financial losses at its Japanese parent in the early 1990s.
At its current level, the Decherd plant can assemble about 300,000 transaxles annually. Transaxles combine the transmission and the front axle of a front-wheel-drive vehicle.
The previous-generation Altima engine was produced by Nissan Mexicana in Mexico. Moving the various powertrain operations into the new Tennessee plant has meant more business for U.S. firms.
The Mexican Altima engine used a large percentage of Japanese-made components. Over the past year, Nissan has been working with some 70 U.S. suppliers to source parts for the Altima powertrain.
Nissan also assembles four-cylinder engines for the Sentra and six-cylinder engines for the Quest/Villager in Smyrna.
One new supplier, Eagle-Picher Automotive of Inkster, Mich., opened a new plant near Decherd to supply hydraulic pumps to the system.