Nissan is finding more and more ways to localize its LEAF production in the U.S. When the vehicle first became available in December 2010, the car was manufactured in Japan. In January 2013, Nissan ramped up production of the car in Smyrna, Tenn. This was followed by production of the electric motor in Decherd, Tenn., in April.
"Bringing that production here and those jobs here, it is better for everyone," said Coral Kanies, Nissan Decherd Production Manager.
Perhaps the biggest example of localizing the LEAF in North America is the company's new source for magnetic wire. Before, special magnetic wire was being shipped in crates from Japan. The wire is heavy and bulky. Now a company called Superior Essex, based in Fort Wayne, Ind., supplies all the copper wire that goes into the Nissan LEAF electric motor.
"You do not have to keep a large inventory here, which also costs you money, and you do not have to wait weeks or even months to get your material for production," said Xavier Mann, director of international sales, Superior Essex.
Production manager Coral Kanies says getting the wire within the U.S. saves Nissan a significant amount of money on each vehicle. That savings means lower prices for customers, and the company can spend more time and money on improving future models.
"The copper wire is one huge component (of the electric motor). The magnets are the other huge component, and those are processed in Oklahoma, so having that all right here in North America really helps our lead times so we can supply this LEAF long term, put the money back into making advancements in the car," said Kanies.
According to Nissan, localizing a component like the magnetic wire takes about two years. The company did about one year of quality testing and spent another year on set up and logistics. Nissan's electric motor facility in Decherd will use only locally sourced magnetic wire by the end of this year.
Nissan's goal by 2015 is to assemble 85 percent of the vehicles sold in the U.S. within North America.