CANTON, Miss. -- Nissan threw the switch last week to begin building its prestige vehicle in the United States for the first time, moving the Murano's global export base from Japan to its plant here.
The project has been about far more than assembly-line tooling.
Nissan has implemented new quality programs at Canton to make sure the Murano is glitch-free. It spent $100 million to establish a supplier park nearby to bring 12 to 14 critical Murano suppliers close to the assembly line. It also created a series of off-line loops through the factory to allow the Murano to be pulled out of the normal production flow for additional workmanship when necessary.
"This is our image car," beamed John Martin, the Irishman who runs Nissan North America's manufacturing and supply chain operations. "We wanted to make sure that this launch was flawless."
The eyes of the global company have been on Martin and his U.S. team for the past year. In the coming months, the Mississippi plant will begin shipping Muranos to 118 export markets. Last week, Martin said he is awaiting final approval from company inspectors in Japan to make sure it passes muster there.
"And don't forget the demanding customers of Australia," he added. "With the demise of the Australian domestic auto industry, they've become completely reliant on imports, mostly from Japan and Korea, and they're very choosy about what they get."
U.S. dealers are already jockeying for inventories of the redesigned 2015 cross-over, which features a swervy new body design, a leather-stitched steering wheel, an oversized moonroof and ergonomic rear seats.