DETROIT -- As it maxes out on its ability to produce its top-selling Altima sedan, Nissan is preparing to relieve the bottleneck by putting more factory capacity in Mexico.
Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn told reporters here Monday that his board has not yet reviewed the plan and he declined to reveal details about it. But he said the decision is just weeks away.
The plan is to create more room to produce Altimas in the United States by moving other models out of Nissan’s U.S. plants and into Mexico.
“We’re going to increase capacity,” Ghosn said, speaking on the sidelines of the Detroit auto show.
He said the expanded capacity definitely will occur in Mexico, but declined to say where in Mexico.
The Altima is a key concern for the automaker’s U.S. growth plans. The brand moved into the No. 5 spot in U.S. sales in 2011, thanks in part to growth from the Altima.
The model sold 268,981 units last year, up 17 percent from 2010.
But the company is running out of space at the two U.S. factories where it produces the Altima. At full volume, the plants can build between 25,000 and 30,000 Altimas a month combined -- significantly less than the number of Camrys that Toyota can build in North America, or Accords that Honda can produce here.
Nissan’s concern is that it has been doing so well selling an Altima that is at the end of its model cycle. The heat will rise this summer when Nissan introduces a new generation Altima.
In Canton, Miss., Nissan is already running three shifts on the Altima line. The Smyrna, Tenn., plant is running two shifts, but Nissan is currently adding three new models to the Smyrna plant -- the Rogue, the electric Leaf and the new Infiniti JX crossover.