Speaking at the casting plant yesterday, Nissan Australia CEO Dan Thompson (far right in photo below), told the media that it was the ingenuity and competitive edge of the plant's team and manufacturing process that won the approval of Nissan Japan over rivals from Thailand and Mexico.
The casting plant is expected to bring in about $30-$40 million a year in revenue over the next few years. The $21 million investment by Nissan Australia and state and federal governments was one of the last projects to get the green light from the Federal Government's now defunct Green Car Innovation Fund ($3.3 million contribution).
The Nissan Casting Plant in Dandenong has been there for almost 30 years and reached its peak performance back in the early '80s when Nissan was manufacturing more than 60,000 vehicles per year locally.
Mr Thompson admitted that around July last year the future of the casting plant was in serious doubt and a back-up plan of shutting it down was looked at. He credits his team for producing a viable business plan that secured Japan's backing and the future prospects of Nissan's local manufacturing.
The plant will be running at full speed with three shifts per day, seven days a week. Nissan expects to deliver 42 different components that will find their way to North America as well as Japan and Thailand. It's expected to produce two million aluminium components per year.
The plant supports 28 different vehicles in the Nissan and Infiniti line-ups. Interestingly, three of the components (soon to be four) are parts of the inverter case in the soon to be released all-electric Nissan Leaf, a project which Nissan has spent more than $5 billion on.
A great part of the investment into the plant and equipment is about robotics and automation. Nissan is expected to start an accessory business at the casting plant towards the end of year with potential to export towbars to South Africa and other markets.
Mr Thompson said the near parity with the US dollar has hurt exports into North America and that goods will generally be headed to Japan and other Asian markets.
"The future for Australian automative manufacturing, and of environmentally responsible private transport, is very bright and very much part of the future for all of us" Mr Thompson said.
Upgrades to the plant will start immediately with the installation of new manufacturing equipment beginning later this year.