DETROIT (April 9, 2008) — Nissan North America Inc. will enter the light commercial vehicle segment by early 2010 with three new vehicles designed specifically for North America and made in the U.S.
The new Class 1 through 5 light commercial vehicle—under 8 tons gross vehicle weight—could come in the form of light buses, vans, taxi cabs or delivery trucks and will be built on all new platforms, developed from the ground up, Nissan said.
Nissan will invest $118 million at its plant in Canton, Miss., to equip that facility to build the new vehicle range. Former Ford Motor Co. executive Joe Castelli will be vice president of light commercial vehicle and fleet, Nissan said.
“Canton has experience with building large vehicles, they have a great deal of flexibility and you've got to get the quality right,” Andy Palmer, head of Nissan´s global light commercial vehicle business, told reporters in a conference call April 7. “The choice was obvious. The choice had to be Canton.”
Nissan builds the Nissan Altima sedan, Quest minivan, Titan pickup and Infiniti QX56 SUV at the Canton plant.
Dealers will be selected from Nissan's existing network for sales and servicing of the new vehicles, the company said.
“Globally, the light commercial vehicle business is now a substantial part of Nissan's sales and profitability, representing a significant part of Nissan total vehicle sales,” Mr. Palmer said in a statement.
“We already have major operations in Japan, China and Europe, and so it is natural that we are now ready to expand our business in North America.”
Nissan also said it signed partnerships with Cummins Inc. for the vehicles' diesel engines and ZF Friedrichshafen A.G. for the transmissions. Two different Cummins diesel engines—tailored specifically for Nissan's new vehicles—will be produced in the U.S., Nissan said. Gasoline engines will also be available.
Mr. Palmer also said that Nissan´s Titan full-size pickup line could receive a diesel engine from the Cummins engines developed for the new commercial vehicles. Development of the platforms is already under way at the Nissan Technical Center North America in Farmington Hills, Mich.
To make room for the new business, Nissan said it will not produce the next-generation Nissan Quest minivan and Infiniti QX56 luxury SUV at Canton.
“Further details of the production shift will be announced at a later time,” the company said in a statement.
Nissan said it sells light commercial vehicles in nearly three-fourths of the world's markets, including Japan, China, Mexico, Europe and the Middle East. Last month Nissan announced the production of a new light commercial pickup truck at its plant in Cuernavaca, Mexico.