DETROIT - The clock is ticking for senior executives at Nissan North America Inc.
By Feb. 1, they must decide whether they're moving from Southern California to Nashville, Tenn., where Nissan will move its headquarters in May.
Jim Morton, Nissan's senior vice president of administration and finance, expects the vast majority of executives to move. But one who has not yet committed is Jack Collins, Nissan's vice president of product planning.
Collins oversees product planning for the Nissan and Infiniti divisions, the advanced planning department and motorsports.
Morton and Collins spoke with Automotive News during the Detroit auto show.
Collins, who has been with Nissan for 16 years, said he probably won't make up his mind until the deadline.
"I'm looking at lots of considerations," he said. "There are 1,300 employees at headquarters and 1,300 different circumstances."
Lower-ranking employees have until April 15 to make the decision. Morton said the company will be lucky to keep half of them.
Morton was a member of the six-person board, including Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn, who studied the move.
Morton said they started talking about it in 2001 and got serious in 2005. He said they looked at five Southern cities, from Tennessee to Texas.
Morton said Nashville was chosen because the company has a good business relationship with Tennessee. It has had a manufacturing plant near Nashville for 20 years.
He said the cost of doing business there is substantially less than in California, and the move will give the company an opportunity to bring most of its U.S. employees together.
As for negatives, Nashville has little direct international airline service, and the company will lose a lot of employees.
But Morton said the positives outweigh the negatives.
"I'm a big proponent of this move," he said. "I think we can get a lot of synergy by having all of the operations in close proximity to each other."
Morton said the board voted unanimously to make the move.
"We're gonna be in the heart of what I think is the auto industry in the U.S.," he said. "We will be within two hours of 70 percent of our customer base. Even though California is big, Texas and Florida are the top two growth markets."
Nissan will keep a presence in California. The advanced planning and design staffs will stay, along with the employees at the parts and distribution center in Long Beach and the regional offices in San Francisco and Costa Mesa.