LOS ANGELES - Nissan Motor Co. may move its U.S. headquarters from Southern California to the Nashville, Tenn., area, a prospect that troubles some Nissan employees in the Golden State.
Is California really a better location than Tennessee for an auto company's headquarters? Staff Reporter Kathy Jackson put the question to several experts.
Alan Baum, director of automotive forecasting at Planning Edge in Birmingham, Mich.:
"The infrastructure is not in Tennessee - such as independent firms like advertising agencies and product planning companies. These people will continue to work with Nissan, but they won't establish an office there just to work with Nissan. It won't be insurmountable for Nissan in Tennessee, but they will lose a lot of people."
Jim Diffley, managing director of regional services at Global Insight in Philadelphia:
"It's not like 20 years ago. They're not picking Tennessee out of the blue. There are lots of auto plants in the South now, and the pool of skilled labor is growing. There also is a lower cost of living, cheaper labor and less government regulation in Tennessee."
Tom Matano, former design chief for Mazda, now director of the school of industrial design at Academy of Art University in San Francisco:
"If you're designing trucks, Tennessee and Texas (are) the place to be. But with cars, California is the place to be. In California, you can be out and free. You can stretch your back and think, be yourself. Weather is not a problem. That's why Nissan has its design center in San Diego.
"But other than design, location should not be all that critical."
Lincoln Merrihew, managing director of the automotive division at Compete Inc. in Boston:
"From an internal standpoint, it probably makes sense to have manufacturing and headquarters side by side. There's better communication. The real estate is also cheaper.
"But the risk is being out of the California car culture. There are so many other car companies out there, and they can share ideas. It's like bees pollinating flowers."
Doug Scott, senior vice president of GfK Automotive in Southfield, Mich. (He spent several years working with Toyota in California.):
"There probably will be tax advantages to go to Tennessee, but the symbolic connectivity to California would probably outweigh the tax advantages. And you have to consider whether this can be done with no disruption to the organization.
"California is fiercely competitive so the question is: Are you more competitive if standing eyeball to eyeball with Honda and Toyota - or 2,000 miles away?"