Nissan Motor Company will raise the annual output capacity of its US manufacturing plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, to 500,000 units by year-end, from the current 410,000, mainly to cope with the shift of production of a new model [the Maxima] to the US plant from Japan, company sources told the Nihon Keizai Shimbun.

With the step, Nissan will in fiscal 2004 see its annual output capacity in North America rise to 1.2-1.3 million vehicles, including production at its plant in Mexico and a new plant due to start operating in Mississippi in May, from just over 690,000 in fiscal 2001.

Nissan will transfer production of the Maxima, thus far produced at domestic plants and exported to North America and elsewhere, to the Smyrna plant in March when the compact passenger car is fully redesigned. The plant will revamp its production lines and review the production process by the end of this year.

The Tennessee plant currently produces the Altima saloon and the Xterra SUV, among others. It is capable of turning out 190,000 Altimas a year, but supplies of the car are insufficient due to strong demand.

The Japanese parent has already decided to raise the annual output capacity of its new US plant in Canton, Mississippi, to 400,000 units by the end of 2004, from the originally projected 250,000.

Starting from May, the plant will produce vehicles dedicated for the North American market, such as the Quest minivan and the new Titan large pickup. During 2004, the plant will also build new production lines for the Altima.

Nissan’s plant in Mexico made 330,000 units in fiscal 2001. Including the output at the Mexican plant and the new factory in Mississippi, Nissan’s total output in North America at the end of 2004 will rise to a level on par with domestic production, which hit 1.27 million units in fiscal 2001.

Nissan’s sales in the US reached 719,000 units in fiscal 2001, outperforming the 714,000 vehicles sold in Japan. Considering the North American market as the largest growth market in the world, Nissan plans to boost sales by 300,000 units by 2005, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun report said.