SMYRNA, Tenn. -- Nissan North America Inc.'s new project to build electric Leaf sedans and batteries here will differ from other big-time auto industry projects in one regard: There will be less business for parts suppliers.
Nissan will spend nearly $1.8 billion to create a large lithium ion battery plant and reorganize its existing Smyrna plant to make way for a new Leaf assembly line. But Nissan's production plan for the vehicle and its battery packs is so vertically integrated that outside companies will not play the large role they normally do.
The battery pack consists of 48 modules, explains Mark Swenson, Nissan North America vice president for manufacturing engineering. "You really can't de-couple them," he says. "They will all be made together."
The battery packs must be made in a highly controlled environment where workers don sterile uniforms to handle the parts. And because the vehicle itself is electric, there will be no need for engine parts, exhaust systems, mufflers, oil filters, fuel tanks and related parts.
Nissan also will produce the car's electric motors internally.