DETROIT -- Nissan North America's new mission to slash the amount of Japanese-made parts in its North American-made vehicles will mean opportunity for U.S. suppliers, said Catherine Perez, the automaker's vice president of purchasing.
Perez is confident Nissan can substitute local parts for imported ones. “There is a large auto industry here, after all,” she said, speaking Wednesday after appearing on a supplier panel at the 2011 Automotive News World Congress.
Perez and the company's Tennessee purchasing team's directive: Cut in half the vehicle content it brings in from Japan by early 2014. On Sunday, Jan. 9, Nissan Americas Chairman Carlos Tavares revealed the mission, along with orders to halve the number of vehicles it imports from Japan.
Nissan set the targets because the yen has dramatically risen in value against the dollar in recent years, a change that makes it more expensive to buy parts in Japan for U.S. use.
But the task will be tough, Perez said. Nissan has spent 30 years trying to localize content, and some of its North American-made vehicles are now 96 to 97 percent locally sourced, she said.
Some remaining parts targeted for localization will have to be bought from U.S. companies.
“Some of these parts have never been localized because the [Japanese] supplier doesn't have a manufacturing affiliate over here. Or perhaps the affiliate had no capacity to produce the part,” she said.
“In some cases, it was because a U.S. company didn't have the technical ability to make the part. And in some cases, maybe there was a U.S. affiliate, but for whatever reason, it just didn't want to make the part,” Perez added. “Maybe it wasn't worth the cost of investment to tool up and produce it.
“We will look at all of that now.”
She declined to specify what parts would be immediately targeted. “They are parts that run all across the spectrum,” Perez said, “from powertrain components to electrical parts.”