Nissan is looking at plans to add more production capacity in North America as part of its efforts to raise its marketshare in the U.S. to 10% by the end of 2017.
Jose Munoz, chairman of Nissan North America, told the Economic Club of Chicago, that the Japanese automakers remains committed to its goal of capturing additional marketshare in the U.S.
“I’m very confident were going to steady growth in the years, he said. “We are shifting into the quality growth plan in order to maximize the quality of the service we provide our customers through our dealers. I worry about every single one. We also see it as a huge opportunity.”
He explained that part of the plan depends on insuring that customers are offered the best possible service.
However, Nissan also faces a number of challenges: intense competition, a potential shortage of capacity and the need to recruit and retain new employees, he said.
“The domestics are super strong, everyone is the enemy,” he said. “You want the industry to be healthy. We think the market is going to continue to grow.
“This is still the most important automotive market in the world. Most other markets are not capable for providing the level of profitability that’s found in the U.S. In absolute terms, it’s way bigger than other markets. We are also working on the implementation of automatic driving. It is the plan to have an autonomous vehicle within five years.”
After his speech, Munoz said he had no timetable for additional investment that would boost capacity. The plant in Smyrna, Tennessee, is the largest production center in North America and built more than 648,000 vehicles last year. But every vehicle is spoken for now, which is why there is a recurring discussion about capacity expansion at high-level planning meetings that are held monthly, Munoz said. Canton, Mississippi is also full and even Nissan’s new plants in Mexico are at full capacity.
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Nissan now has 22,000 employees, including some 9,000 hired since 2011. “We are a template for success of manufacturing in America. Localization is still an important part of our strategy,” he added.
Munoz said Nissan is now actively looking for more employees and is participating with several different partners, including state governments, in programs that will help give potential employees the skills they will need to work in the auto industry of the future. How do we best train and retain employees is critical.
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“We are increasingly challenged by a shortage of skilled workers,” he said. “We must do much more. Nissan is making an investment in the work force of tomorrow.”
Nissan also wants its workforce to become more diverse because it helps reach the growing number of buyers from minority groups.
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“Diversity might be the single biggest advantage multi-national companies might have. Nissan has one of the most diverse buyer profiles with 31% coming from minority groups. We’re making sure our workforce better represents the customers that are buying our product. Watch this space. If you thought Nissan was finished, just wait to see what the next chapters tell,” he said.