Nissan Motor gets where it's going in North America through Nissan North America. With plants in the US and Mexico, Nissan North America designs, engineers, and produces such vehicles as the Xterra SUV, the Altima sedan, and the Frontier pickup. It also provides marketing, financing, distribution, and services in Canada, Guam, Mexico, Puerto Rico, and the US. It oversees sales of Nissan's luxury Infiniti brand of cars in North America. Through Nissan Forklift, the company distributes and sells Nissan's electric and gasoline-powered forklifts. Nissan North America was formed in 1990 to coordinate the company's US, Mexican, and Canadian operations. North America accounts for almost 40% of Nissan Motor's sales.
Nissan North America experienced a revenue decrease in 2009 over 2008 due to the recession and the credit crisis. The deep pockets of the company's parent, and its alliance with Renault, has allowed Nissan's businesses to continue to expand geographically and technologically. The alliance between Renault and Nissan was forged in order to take advantage of the synergies between the two companies. The partnership also allows them the opportunity to tackle capital intensive projects, such as electric vehicles, that they would otherwise not be able to afford separately.
One of the premiere projects for the Alliance is its 100% electric, zero-emission vehicle. Intent upon putting a dent in Toyota's Prius market share, the company selected Nissan North America's plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, as the production site for Nissan's LEAF zero-emission vehicle. The US Department of Energy has supported the green effort by providing low-interest loans to Nissan North America to retool the Smyrna factory. The facility's immediate focus is on manufacturing an advanced lithium-ion battery; actual automobile assembly is scheduled to begin in late 2010 or early 2011.
In the meantime, the Alliance is drumming up support from state governments, municipalities, and utilities to promote the development of an electric-vehicle charging network to support electric vehicles as they enter the mass market. Nissan has collaborated with California-based Coulomb Technologies, which has installed a network of charging stations throughout the US, to ensure that the Nissan LEAF can be fueled at Coulomb's ChargePoint Networked Charging Stations.
The Alliance has also created an almost autonomous production operation, different from other manufacturers in that there will be fewer supplier contracts involved in the production of the vehicle. Nissan will produce its electric motors and batteries internally, and because the vehicle is electric, there is no need for engine parts such as exhaust systems, mufflers, oil filters, fuel tanks, and other related parts.
Entering into new territory, Nissan North America is joining the commercial vehicle (CV) market with the launch of its NV Van; it has formed partnerships with Cummins and ZF Friedrichshafen to provide diesel engines and transmissions, respectively. Nissan North America will build the vehicles at its in Canton, Mississippi, plant and expects to release CVs sometime in 2011. This is Nissan's first venture producing CVs in North America.