Nissan Launches the Largest Battery Plant in the US to Ramp Up LEAF Sales

Posted by Stephen On Friday, December 14th, 2012

Yesterday Nissan announced in a press release that their lithium-ion battery plant in Smyrna, Tennessee is finally prepped for production; the first batteries have been aged appropriately and are now ready for their first dose of power. The plant is apparently equipped to produce up to 200,000 lithium-ion batteries per year for the 2013 Nissan LEAF. According to the press release, this new battery plant is the largest of its kind in the United States, and one of three such large-scale plants in the entire world.

This new Tennessee-based battery plant does not come unprecedented, however. December marks two years of sales for the all-electric Nissan LEAF. Even though some might see the car as slow-selling, Nissan is still calling it “the most successful 100% electric vehicle in history”. Before the opening of this new Tennessee plant, Nissan had sold 18,000 LEAFs in the United States, and close to 50,000 globally. With the launch of the Smyrna plant, Nissan expects annual US sales to double and for the car to hit 20,000 units sold by the end of the fiscal year on March 31, 2013.

While I would be skeptical of seeing sales of any all-electric vehicle double in just one or two years as Nissan is estimating, there’s no denying that this is a big step for the Japanese car manufacturer. Carlos Ghosn, president and chief executive officer of Nissan Motor Co., boldly declared that “opening this US plant is an important milestone in Nissan’s overarching strategy to foster sustainable mobility around the world”.

Market impact aside, the economic impact of this new battery plant is not to be understated. Once the batteries from the new Smyrna plant have been charged and prepped for installation, they will be shipped to another nearby Tennessee plant that currently makes the Nissan Ultima and Maxima, but which is being re-tooled for LEAF production. Nissan estimates that “adding production of the Nissan LEAF and the battery has resulted in the creation of more than 300 US manufacturing jobs to date… Combined operations could add up to 1,000 additional jobs as needed.” That’s a lot of jobs!

It seems that launching the new battery plant is a win-win for everybody involved – Nissan gets to cut costs while delivering environmentally friendly vehicles to US drivers, and the Tennessee economy gets a sorely needed 300 to 1,300 manufacturing jobs in the process. You can expect to see this type of trend continue, as Nissan and many other Japanese auto-makers open more plants in the United States to cut costs. Nissan in particular “aims to have 85% of all Nissan and Infiniti products that are sold in the United States produced in North America” by 2015.

Whether or not you are a fan of the 2013 Nissan LEAF, whether or not you see this new battery plant having the dramatic effect on sales that Nissan is hoping for, there’s no denying that this is an admirable move on Nissan’s part. I, for one, see this as only good news!

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