Nissan said this week that reports it was moving the Murano crossover from Japan to the US in 2014 were purely speculative. Reports in the Japanese business press said that the carmaker was planning to start producing the Murano at the Smyrna plant in Tennessee, which already makes the Altima, Maxima and started assembly of the luxury JX Infiniti crossover in May this year. The company did confirm that it will begin production of the Leaf electric vehicle “in the coming months”. The company is moving the Frontier and Xterra models made at Smyrna to its Canton plant in Mississippi.
Nissan produced 85,000 Muranos through 2011 with 90% of them produced at its Kyushu plant in Japan and the majority exported to the US where sales closed on 36,000 in August, fuelling speculation that a move is likely.
Nissan is planning to cut exports from Japan by a third and has already announced that Rogue production is being moved to the Smyrna plant in 2014, which will reduce shipments of 100,000 vehicles per year. By 2015 around 85% of Nissan vehicles sold in North America will be built in the country according to the company.
Currently, North America is by far Nissan’s biggest export market for vehicles made in Japan and it increased exports by nearly 30% between January and June this year on the same period last year, with volumes up to more than 206,000. Total exports abroad were up 19% to 333,000 according to the company.
However, the strength of the yen means exports are expensive and the company is looking at moving more production to local markets, though it said it will maintain production in Japan at 1m vehicles per year.
Elsewhere in North America, Nissan started production of its fourth-generation Sentra compact car at the Aguascalientes 1 manufacturing plant in Mexico. The new Sentra will account for about half of the plant's automotive production, which also makes the Tiida and Versa, and the vehicle will be exported to more than 20 countries. Nissan has invested around $150m in the existing plant for the launch. The Canton plant in Mississippi will also make the Sentra.