Nissan may expand its new assembly plant, currently being built in Canton, Mississippi, before it even assembles the first vehicle, according to the Detroit News.

The newspaper said that the Mississippi Legislature meets today in a special session, called by state governor Ronnie Musgrove, to vote on an economic assistance package to support Nissan and, citing a spokesman for the governor, added that the bill is expected to pass.

Nissan officials would not confirm the expansion yesterday, the Detroit News said, but the company’s North American sales and marketing head, Jed Connelly, said the vehicle maker wants to add production capacity somewhere to meet swelling demand in the United States, where sales of the recently redesigned Altima sedan were up 35% to the end of May.

Nissan also plans to launch several new car and truck models in the next few years, the Detroit News said.

Nissan was the first Japanese manufacturer to build four-wheel light vehicles in the United States, beginning in 1978 with small pickup trucks in Smyrna, Tennessee.

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“We think we need to increase production,” Connelly told the Detroit News, adding: “Whether it comes from Japan or Mexico or the US, we’re looking at all of our options. We have not determined how we can achieve it, we have just determined that we need to try and find a way.”

The newspaper said the $930 million Canton plant would start building a planned annual capacity of 250,000 vehicles late next year, employing 4,000 people when fully operational.

The Detroit News said the factory would initially build the new Quest minivan (replacing the current model built in a Ford plant), a new full-size sport-utility vehicle, a new full-size pick-up and a new full-size Infiniti SUV.

Connelly told the Detroit News that Nissan wants to boost global sales by a million vehicles by 2005, with more than 300,000 of those delivered in the US.