Nissan ponders pickup changes

Nissan North America Inc needs more room to produce pickups.

The manufacturer is considering moving production of its Quest minivan to a plant in Japan in order to crank up pickup production in its plant in Canton, Mississippi, according to Wards Communications.

Nissan manufacturers its fullsize Titan pickup in Canton, but exporting minivan production back to Japan would give the plant the ability to produce more.

Last year, the Quest represented 12% of Canton’s 341,210-unit output, a Nissan spokesman told Wards. Canton’s total capacity is 400,000 units annually.

According to Wards, Nissan has long discussed adding a heavy-duty version of the Titan to boost sales. The light-duty Titan has never achieved its 100,000-unit annual sales target.

“(A heavy-duty Titan) is something we’re seriously taking a look at,” Jed Connelly, NNA’s retiring senior vice president-sales and marketing, told Ward’s last year.

Nissan recognizes that a heavier Titan would need to be available with a diesel engine—something the company probably would acquire from an outside supplier.

“That would be the most logical thing, but it could come from (subsidiary) Nissan Diesel, although that’s not as likely as going outside (the company),” a Nissan spokesman told Wards. “It could come from Renault (SA). It could come from us. But I think the most logical one would be it would come from some outside vendor.”

If a diesel engine supplier were to be used, he says the issue would then become whether Nissan buys the engine “off the shelf” or tweaks it specifically for the HD Titan.

The Wall Street Journal, citing unnamed Nissan and supplier executive sources, reports the long-rumored HD version of the Titan will be seen in 2009 as a ’10 model and moving the Quest out of Canton, where it has been built since the plant opened in May 2003, would free up 40,000-50,000 units of capacity for the pickup.

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