Nissan is considering third US auto plant to meet electric car demand

YOKOHAMA, Japan — Nissan is considering adding a new auto plant in the US to keep up with growing demand for electric vehicles, a chief executive of the Japanese automaker said Friday.

“It may come as no surprise that we are going for a third factory,” Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta told reporters at Yokohama headquarters.

Nissan Motor Co. now has two auto plants in the US. One in Canton, Mississippi, makes the Titan pickup and Altima sedan, among other things. The further in Smyrna, Tennessee, makes the Leaf electric car, Pathfinder SUV, and other models.

Each factory employs thousands of workers and has produced millions of Nissan vehicles.

The third plant would be not just an added assembly line to an existing plant but a completely new facility, although it could be built as an extension to an existing plant, Gupta said. That would create several thousand jobs in the area, although its realization is still several years away.

“The importance of localization will increase yearly,” Gupta said.

Depending on the region, customers may have incentives to buy electric vehicles, and the fluctuating exchange rate may also make local manufacturing more desirable, Gupta said.

His comments come a day after Nissan reported profitability for the first time in three fiscal years, despite challenges in the general auto industry from chip shortages due to restrictions related to the coronavirus pandemic.

Nissan, affiliated with Renault SA of France, posted a profit of 215.5 billion yen ($1.7 billion) for the fiscal year through March, reversing from a loss of 448.7 billion yen in the previous fiscal year.

Gupta’s comments also reflect a growing shift to ecological vehicles to support sustainable energy and transportation amid concerns about climate change.

As an alliance partner, Gupta said that Nissan would support Renault in its recently mooted idea of ​​potentially separating its electric vehicle division. But he made it clear that Nissan would not take similar action.

“It’s too early to say we’re going in one direction,” he said.

Nissan’s products were more diversified because, in addition to Japan and Europe, it also had key markets in China and North America.

Gupta declined to comment on what might be desirable for future leadership at Nissan, stressing that special corporate committees were charged with that task.

Nissan has focused on strengthening its corporate governance after Carlos Ghosn, who led Nissan for two decades, was arrested on criminal charges in 2018. Ghosn claims to be innocent. He bailed and fled to Lebanon, the land of his ancestors.

Takaki Nakanishi, an auto analyst with Jefferies, said Nissan’s financial results were within expectations, but he thought his goal of selling 4 million vehicles this fiscal year was conservative.

“We believe there is a chance of an increase in volume,” he said in a report.

Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter

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