Nissan to Shift Murano Production to U.S. From Japan

Nissan Motor Co. plans to shift production of Murano crossover vehicles to the U.S. from Japan next year as the carmaker continues boosting North American production to insulate itself from currency swings.

A revamped Murano will be produced in Canton, Mississippi, starting in 2014, the Yokohama, Japan-based company said in an e-mailed statement. Nissan is already adding Sentra small car production in Canton, and Murano will be the eighth model to be built at the 10-year-old plant.

“With the addition of this new model in Canton, Nissan is well on its way toward meeting our goal to manufacture 85 percent of the vehicles we sell in the U.S. right here in North America,” Bill Krueger, vice chairman of Nissan Americas, said in the statement yesterday.

The company, Japan’s second-largest automaker, accelerated efforts to expand North American vehicle production after the yen surged in 2011 to 75.82 against the dollar, eroding profit margins for Japan-built exports to the U.S. While the yen has eased to about 88 to the dollar, Nissan, Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. are all raising U.S. and Mexican output.

Nissan yesterday said it’s also begun making Leaf electric cars in Smyrna, Tennessee.

A prototype crossover vehicle is to be shown at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit on Jan. 14 showing styling “cues” for future Nissan models, the company said, without elaborating.

U.S. sales of the current Murano, last redesigned in 2010, fell 5.5 percent in 2012 to 49,608, according to researcher Autodata Corp.

Additional Jobs

Nissan’s North American production of cars and trucks at plants in Tennessee, Mississippi and Mexico grew 14 percent last year to 1.33 million, based on figures from the company.

While adding Murano assembly in Mississippi will require “several hundred jobs,” Nissan hasn’t determined how many workers may be added and isn’t disclosing the cost of the project, said Travis Parman, a company spokesman. Canton has about 5,200 workers, according to a company website.

The company also announced a program this week for contract workers at the plant to become direct Nissan employees, Parman said, without elaborating.

Along with Sentra, Nissan makes Titan and Frontier pickups, Armada and Xterra sport-utility vehicles, Altima sedans and NV commercial vehicles in Canton.

Nissan’s North American operations are based in Franklin, Tennessee.