CANTON – (AP) Nissan Motor Co. will start making the Sentra sedan in December at its plant in Canton, company officials said.
The Japanese automaker will hire another 1,000 workers at the plant north of Jackson, bringing its worker total to nearly 5,000.
The Sentra would be the seventh model produced at the plant, along with the Altima sedan, the Frontier and Titan pickups, the Xterra and Armada SUVs and the NV van. The Canton plant will start making the Frontier and Xterra later this year.
“We continue to show the U.S. that manufacturing exists in Mississippi and is strong here in Canton,” said Bill Krueger, vice chairman of Nissan Americas. “We can be very proud of our ability to compete in an industry where every day we fight for sales.”
He said that after the expansion, the Canton plant will have the capacity to make 450,000 vehicles a year.
Nissan will invest more than $20 million in addition to hiring the workers.
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant said the state will provide $7.5 million in cash to pay for worker training and infrastructure.
“Nissan’s trust in Mississippi’s workforce is evident, and I am proud that this company is creating 1,000 additional jobs for hard-working Mississippians,” Republican Bryant said in a statement.
The company says it has invested more than $2 billion at the Canton plant, which opened in 2003. The state has provided more than $378 million in aid and incentives.
Nissan also makes the Sentra in Aguascalientes, Mexico, and Krueger said production would continue there. He said the company’s goal is to be able to change its mix of production at its North American plants based on market demand. Nissan also has a plant in Smyrna, Tenn.
“We’ve really got a luxury of having competitive plants across the region,” Krueger said.
The Canton plant currently has three assembly lines – one for trucks, one for the Altima sedan and one for the NV van. Kreuger said the Sentra would be assembled on the Altima line.
Krueger said other Nissan plants are expanding as well.
“I think we’ve got greater demand than we have output right now,” he said.
Nissan is the No. 6 automaker in the United States, with an 8.1 percent share of the market so far in 2012. The company is trying to capture 10 percent of the market by 2014.
The company says more Nissans sold in the United States will be made here. Krueger said 69 percent of vehicles sold are American-made right now, a figure the company expects to raise to 85 percent by 2015.
The expansion also comes as the United Auto Workers has targeted the Canton plant for unionization. Bryant reiterated his opposition to unionization after the announcement. He said he’d work “as an individual” to combat any union effort.
“I don’t believe we would see the expansion in the auto industry if we have union growth in the state,” Bryant said. “I don’t think we need to do anything to jeopardize that growth.”
The UAW, Democratic U.S. Rep. Bennie Thompson of Mississippi and the head of the state chapter of the NAACP announced the organizing effort earlier this month, calling on the company to refrain from a strong anti-union campaign.
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