As it strives to shore up U.S. profit margins, Nissan is studying a plan to move products around at its factories in Tennessee and Mississippi, starting with the consolidation of crossovers at its assembly plant in Smyrna, Tenn., according to its North American suppliers.
This summer, the automaker plans to pull production of its Murano midsize crossover out of Canton, Miss., and move assembly to Smyrna, according to a presentation shared with suppliers and obtained by Automotive News.
But Nissan's resolve to make itself more efficient is being hampered by the forced industry shutdown because of the health crisis.
The full plan also includes consolidating the production of Altima midsize sedans — currently built at both locations — to only the Canton plant. But suppliers were told this month the Altima part of the plan is on hold, a casualty of planning disruption from the coronavirus pandemic.
A spokeswoman for Nissan North America declined to comment on details of the presentation and added, "We have made no external announcements about changes to our production plans in North America. Nissan regularly studies a number of potential opportunities to optimize manufacturing operations."
Nissan introduced the Japan-built Murano in 2002 but established Canton as its North American production base in 2014.
Shifting Murano production to Smyrna would free up factory capacity at the 4.7 million-square-foot Canton plant for new investment. Nissan has a history of investing in the U.S. when the market is down, starting with its venture to enter U.S. automaking during the economic turbulence of 1981.
In the aftermath of the 2009 economic crisis, Nissan announced a $1.7 billion investment to build the electric Leaf sedan and its battery module at the Smyrna plant. Nissan made another big bet in 2011, shifting production of the Rogue crossover from Japan to Smyrna in an effort to cut its exposure to the high Japanese yen.