The fastest growing car manufacturer in the USA isn’t Toyota, which seems to get all of the press, but Nissan which has gone thru a transformation since the mid 90s. A new plant in Canton, MS, built in 2003 at a cost of $1.4 billion and size of six football fields, helped Nissan to grow its USA sales by 16% in 2004 compared to Toyota’s 10%. Ford and GM both lost sales volume last year.
The thinking of putting a plant in MS was counter-intuitive. Alabama and Tennessee were typically the states of choice in the south for new auto plants due to their more industrialized traditions. But Mississippi won over Nissan and is rapidly transforming the state with this new plant. Business 2.0 features the plant in their June, 2005 issue.
I blogged on the impact of this plant in small towns throughout Mississippi on February 14 and 15th. Already 50 firms, hiring 5,000 people in over 18 towns have set up shop in the state because of Nissan. More will follow.
One of the interesting tidbits from the Business 2.0 story is how Nissan has developed a system to alleviate hail damage to their vehicles at the plant. With as many as 12,000 new vehicles on the back lot being prepped to ship and Mississippi notorious for their hailstorms, Nissan developed a sonic system to break up hailstones in the sky. They’ve installed 12-foot cannons tied into a Doppler radar system that searches for hail formations at 50,000 feet. When the radar system detects these formations it automatically triggers the sonic blasts, breaking them up. They’ve used the system four times already and haven’t lost one car to hail to date.