Nissan reschedules production of light commercial vans to be bulit at Miss. plant for 2011

By Jack Elliott Jr., AP
Thursday, July 8, 2010

Nissan revises production schedule for van line

JACKSON, Miss. — Nissan should begin building its new light commercial van in the first quarter of 2011 at its plant in Mississippi, the company said Thursday.

Nissan North America spokesman Steve Parrett said the revised production schedule at the Canton plant will allow the company to build the vans as 2012 models.

The company halted production of the Quest minivan this year, reassigned 600 workers from other areas of the plant, and completed a $118 million expansion and modification of the facility to accommodate the new vans.

Nissan’s engineering team had asked for more time to ensure high quality and performance standards for the vans, which pushed the schedule back several weeks to December, Parrett said.

“Once we decided to adjust our production schedule, we decided not to start in December. That would have forced us to start production, stop for the holidays and then restart in January,” Parrett said.

Pushing production back until January allows for an uninterrupted ramp-up and allows the company to start with the 2012 models, rather than having to start with a limited 2011 model year.

“This benefits the customers through better residual values for the newer model,” Parrett said.

The vans, which were introduced in February at the National Truck Equipment Association’s annual Work Truck Show in St. Louis, are new products for North America. Nissan produces commercial vehicles in other countries but until now resisted entering the market here.

Pricing on the vehicles has not yet been announced.

Commercial vans are a relatively small market. Nissan says it makes up about 16 percent of its global sales.

The main buyers are companies like FedEx and small businesses like landscapers or repair technicians.

Nissan has said the vans are the most researched vehicles the company has ever produced. They include a cargo space large enough to hold an Altima and a main cabin set up for comfort and ease of use. The interior will feel more like a pickup truck than a traditional commercial van, officials said.

The Canton plant was chosen to produce the vans because it had plenty of space and the facility was already producing large vehicles. The plant currently produces the Altima, Armada and Titan under the Nissan nameplate, as well as the Infiniti QX56.

Most of the new investment was made in the paint plant, where 60,000 square feet were modified and 49,000 square feet added to accommodate the van. The vans range in height from 7 feet to nearly 9 feet and are 20 feet long and more than 6½ feet wide — and will require 10 gallons of paint each, according to plant officials.

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