Third Shift Set for Nissan

Nissan Employees work on the production line at the Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tennessee.

Nissan Employees work on the production line at the Nissan plant in Smyrna, Tennessee. Photo by Jeff Adkins

For the first time since opening in 1983, Nissan’s assembly plant in Tennessee is adding a third shift at its plant here. With more than 800 jobs to be added by the move, Nissan will make a sizable increase in the North America-built ratio.

The automakers plants in Smyrna and Canton, MS, will account by 2015 for 85 percent of vehicles sold in North America, Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam announced on October 19.

The Smyrna plant also stands out in the range of vehicles built there, including the popular Altima sedan, Pathfinder, Maxima and the new Infiniti JX.

The lineup of Smyrna-built cars will add the all-electric Nissan Leaf in December, followed in 2013 by the Rogue SUV. Nissan is running No. 2 in U.S. sales of overseas built cars.

The Smyrna work force of 5,600 will top out at 6,400 to accommodate the additional vehicles.

Not yet a UAW-organized plant, despite being one of the largest North American plants owned by a foreign-based automaker, Smyrna faces a challenge of initial quality control as it continues to proliferate.

The UAW will rise to the challenge with an intensified organizing drive. It has lost elections at Smyrna before, but will not be able to do so as it steps up production and adds a third shift.

The Altima safety recall due to a steering-control safety defect sent shock waves again  through Nissan dealers in October.

Nissan drew little solace from a similar recall affecting Hyundai Santa Fe SUVs, and the “double whammy” affecting foreign-ownership imports built in TN and AL revived echos of Toyota, Scion and Lexus safety (yes, Lexus!) safety-related glitches in 2010 and 2009.

Once again, Toyota’s skillful handling of supplier parts quality problems staved off do-or-die demands on suppliers.

“Quality among OEMs,” says Toyota President Toyoda. Its a lesson all OEMS should enforce…even facing UAW contracts.

UAW plants result invariably in output of better-quality vehicles-initially and three years running.

The first-ever government bailouts of auto makers (GM and Chrysler) plus suppliers (Delphi) became a heated issue in the 2012 Presidential campaign, as President Obama staunchly defended his billion-dollar rescue and challenger Mit Romney declared he never would resort to infusion of funds and purchases of stock in Chrysler and GM, were he to win the presidency.

“We saved the automobile industry from collapse.” Obama asserted, a claim which won rabid approval in the OEM and supplier towns of the Midwest and Southeast.

Government stakes in large automakers could become a permanent SOS practice in the light of its success at GM and Chrysler, now that the precedent has been established globally with the French government’s rescue of Peugeot in October. UAW President Bob King cheered the government’s role in rescuing GM and Chrysler, plus numerous auto suppliers.

Obama’s bid for a second term as commander-in -chief was undeniably bolstered due to the federal rescue, setting a tone that could play over and over if the U.S auto market plummets again.

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