NASHVILLE, TN -- Nissan Motor Co. announced it has picked its assembly plant in Tennessee for production of its first more fuel-efficient hybrid vehicle. The company expects to sell as many as 50,000 gas-electric Altimas for the 2007-model year. Nissan will invest $10.4 million for additional equipment and minor modifications to existing assembly lines at the plant in Smyrna, Tenn. Jed Connelly, vice president of sales and marketing for Nissan, said the hybrid line is important despite projections for limited production initially. "It's a marketing challenge actually because of the fact that it still is an Altima. It is just a technology put in the Altima," Connelly said. Dan Gaudette, Nissan's senior vice president of North American manufacturing and quality assurance, said Nissan is eyeing the future with the hybrid offering, looking at the potential to offer other options such as cars that run on hydrogen fuel cells. By the end of this year, J.D. Power and Associates predicts a total of 222,000 hybrid vehicles, 1.3 percent of all vehicles, will be sold in the U.S. Nissan's plant in Smyrna was built in 1980 as the company's first production facility outside Japan. It already is manufacturing traditional gas-engine Altima and Maxima cars, Xterra and Pathfinder sport/utility vehicles and Frontier pickups.

Originally posted on Fleet Financials