June 29 (Bloomberg) -- Nissan Motor Co. said it will hire at least 1,000 more workers and build Sentra small car at its Canton, Mississippi, plant as the Japanese carmaker expands North American production to help counter a strong yen.
The new output at the factory begins late this year, Nissan said yesterday in a statement. With the Sentra and the addition of Frontier pickups and Xterra sport-utility vehicles that was announced in April, the plant’s employment will rise to 4,500, the company said.
“When we launch the next-generation Sentra, we expect to see higher demand, more competitiveness with that product,” Bill Krueger, the Yokohama, Japan-based automaker’s vice chairman of the Americas, said in a telephone interview. “We’re really preparing now for that increase in Sentra demand.”
Nissan, the second-largest Japanese automaker, is working to curb the effect of the stronger yen, which makes production in the company’s home market for export more expensive. The yen has strengthened against the U.S. currency for the past four years, dropping to an average of 80 to the dollar last year from 118 in 2007, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The company, which announced a $2 billion expansion in Mexico in January, has a goal of making 85 percent of autos it sells in North America and South America at factories in those regions by 2015. Nissan’s Smyrna, Tennessee, plant, its largest in the Americas, begins making Leaf electric cars in late 2012.
The move in Canton will boost that plant’s annual production capacity to 450,000 vehicles and cost about $23 million, said Brian Brockman, a Nissan spokesman.
Nissan lost 1 percent to 726 yen as of 9:12 a.m. in Tokyo trading. The benchmark Nikkei 225 Stock Average fell 0.6 percent.
The Sentra, which is being revamped as a 2013 model, will continue to be made at the Aguascalientes, Mexico, plant, when the Canton production starts in December, Krueger said. The U.S. factory now builds Altima sedans, Armada SUVs, Titan pickups and NV commercial vans, Nissan said.
Nissan’s North American unit is based in Franklin, Tennessee.
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