TOKYO -- Nissan Motor Co. will locate a new small-car assembly plant in the United States, Mexico or Brazil.
The plant will produce vehicles based on Nissan's new global V platform, which will replace the Micra subcompact. The Micra is not sold in the United States, but two of the three new V models will be sold here -- slotted below the Nissan Versa. The current Micra is about 2 feet shorter than the Versa.
The program calls for production of at least 200,000 vehicles at the plant, as well as their engines and transmissions, says Carlos Tavares, Nissan's chairman for the Americas.
Nissan expects to produce at least 1 million V cars a year at five plants. Other plants will be in China, India, Thailand and a fifth undisclosed location.
Low-cost production is at the core of the project.
"The U.S. will not be No. 1 in our ranking for where to build the car," Tavares told Automotive News, "but it will be possible to do this in the U.S."
Tavares was a chief architect of the manufacturing plan that Nissan calls the "entry car strategy." It is a new approach to automaking for Nissan.
Vincent Cobee, V-platform program director, said the plan will require suppliers to rethink their components in ways that minimize costs. Seats, for example, might be made in different locations, with some parts produced inside the auto assembly plant. Some seat parts could be made in a central location for V production globally.
"It might not be a seat plant as we currently recognize seat plants," Cobee said.
The strategy also calls for a very high level of local content, regardless of where the car is built, in part to cut logistics costs. The Thai plant, where the program will be launched in 2010, will target 80 percent local content on the first day of production. The Chinese plant will launch later with a startup target of 90 percent local content. Tavares said the Americas plant would have a similarly high local content target.
Colin Dodge, a Nissan Motor Co. executive vice president, said: "It used to take us 10 years to get a car up to 70 percent localization. We're going to be doing 80 to 90 percent local content on Day One."