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Nissan Planning New Truck Factory in U.S.

November 07, 2000|JOHN O'DELL | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Flush with the apparent success of its turnaround plan and an anticipated $1.6-billion profit for the first half of its fiscal 2001, Nissan Motor Co. is launching a product-development program that will include a new $1-billion truck plant in the United States.

Insiders at Gardena-based Nissan North America Inc. say a formal announcement about the new plant will be made this week. The plant is expected to be in Mississippi or another Southern state near Nissan's manufacturing facilities in Tennessee. On Monday, the Mississippi House of Representatives passed a package of tax incentives designed to lure the factory to the state.

In a brief meeting with reporters in Tokyo last week, Nissan President Carlos Ghosn said the company's decision to launch a full-size pickup and a full-size sport-utility vehicle for the U.S. market in two years means they will have to be built in the U.S.

Nissan previously had said it will spend almost $1 billion in Tennessee to double the size of its engine factory in Decherd and its Smyrna vehicle plant, where the Frontier compact pickup, Xterra SUV and Altima mid-size sedan are built.

Ghosn, architect of the revival plan instituted after French auto maker Renault acquired control of the troubled Japanese company last year, also said Nissan will spend $790 million in conjunction with Renault to develop a fuel-cell program in the next five years and will hire 1,000 new engineers in Japan and elsewhere to support its new product drive.

Nissan's huge first-half profit comes from a massive cost-cutting program that has slashed the payroll, consolidated or sold operations and eliminated the closed-door supplier network, or keiretsu, typical of old-line Japanese manufacturing companies in favor of an open system that stresses competitive bidding over long-term relationships.

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