Another popular Nissan vehicle will soon be built as well as sold in the United States.

According to Associated Press (AP), Nissan North America has announced it is moving production of the Pathfinder sport utility vehicle to Tennessee, adding 800 jobs at its plant there.

The expansion will require an investment of $US250 million at the factory in Smyrna, about 20 miles southeast of Nashville, the company reportedly said.

Nissan senior vice president Emil Hassan told Associated Press that the redesigned 2005 Pathfinder should begin production in Smyrna in autumn 2004. The current model is built in Japan, AP added.

“This is without a doubt a great day for Tennessee,” state governor Phil Bredesen reportedly said during the announcement at the capitol. “This is big-time stuff, and a continued vote of confidence in our work force and business climate,” he added, according to AP.

The Associated Press report said that Nissan estimates the expansion will create 1,500 permanent jobs in the area as it adds 600 posts in Smyrna and 200 at its engine and transaxle plant in nearby Decherd. Another 700 jobs will reportedly be created by suppliers to the Nissan manufacturing plants.

AP said the expansion will add 170,000 square feet to the 5.4-million-square-foot Smyrna facility, which already produces the Altima and Maxima sedans [production of the ’04 model was also switched from Japan recently], the Xterra SUV and the Frontier pickup truck. Hassan reportedly said the plant’s capacity after the expansion will be 550,000 vehicles per year.

With the expansion, Nissan’s investment in Tennessee, since it began building the Smyrna plant in 1980, will grow to $2.75 billion, Associated Press noted.