Nissan today (24 June) confirmed that it will expand its new assembly plant in Canton, Mississippi to increase its North American manufacturing capacity, investing $500 million to add another million square feet to the 2.5 million square foot plant, currently under construction.

The new investment will increase the plant's annual production capacity from 250,000 vehicles to 400,000 and add approximately 1,300 new jobs to the plant's workforce.

The expansion in Canton will accommodate additional production of the Altima, which will continue to be built at Nissan's plant in Smyrna, Tennessee.

The latest investment will also increase Nissan's flexibility to respond to demands for future new models in North America.

In Canton, Nissan will also build full-size pick up trucks, full-size Nissan and Infiniti sport utility vehicles and the next generation Quest minivan. Just-auto readers in Mississippi say it is rumoured Nissan will also build a new crossover model there.

Production of the first vehicle at Canton is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2003; Altima production will start in spring 2004.

"Having the capacity in Canton to produce 150,000 additional Altimas will allow us to satisfy strong and growing demand for this car. It will also give us flexibility in configuring production of future products for North America," said Emil Hassan, senior vice president of Nissan North American manufacturing, purchasing, quality and logistics.

Canton plant construction began in April 2001 and construction of the extended facility will begin immediately.

Nissan's production capacity in North America will be 1.3 million units upon completion of both phases of construction at Canton.