Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Nissan Cuts Costs at Top American Plant

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Nissan Cuts Costs at Top American Plant

Article excerpt

NASHVILLE -- Nissan Motor Co. said it expects to cut labor costs at one of North America's most efficient auto plants by as much as 5 percent this year, which could help it hold down the price on the redesigned 1998 Altima.

Nissan's Smyrna, Tenn., plant will begin producing the redesigned 1998 Altima small sedan May 28 and the 1998 Frontier small pickup truck in August.

The new Altima takes less time and fewer workers to assemble. The lower cost is expected to be reflected in the redesigned Altima's sticker price, either at or just below the 1997 version's $16,000 to $21,000, company officials said. The 1998 price hasn't been announced. "There are significant cost efficiencies in the new Altima," said Emil Hassan, senior vice president of operations at Nissan Motor Manufacturing Corp. USA. "It's easier to build and it has fewer parts." The 5.1 million-square-foot plant, 30 miles south of Nashville, is already one of the North American auto industry's most efficient, according to the Harbour Report, an annual study by consultants Harbour and Associates in Troy, Mich. The Smyrna plant uses 2.09 workers per vehicle produced on average, according to the 1996 study. Second best was Toyota Motor Corp.'s 2.62 workers. Detroit-based automakers' averages ranged from Ford Motor Co.'s 3.11 workers to General Motors Corp.'s 3.64. The plant builds the Altima, a pickup truck, Sentra and 200SX compact cars, and Nissan Quest and Mercury Villager minivan engines and parts. It produces about 1,700 cars and trucks a day and has a workforce of 6,000. While Nissan officials aim to improve plant productivity by 10 percent this year, it's getting more difficult, they say. "Our efficiency gains come from improving little-bitty things over time," said Jerry Benefield, chief executive and president of Nissan Motor Manufacturing. …

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