By Bernie Woodall
CANTON, Miss., June 28 (Reuters) - Japanese car maker Nissan Motor Co said it will add workers and start production of its Sentra compact sedan at its Canton plant in Mississippi.
Nissan will add 1,000 jobs to the plant where the Sentra production will begin in December, Mississippi Governor Phil Bryant said at an event held at the Canton plant on Thursday.
Total employment at the Canton plant will rise to 4,500 from the existing 3,900 by December, Nissan officials said. The move comes at a time when the United Auto Workers (UAW) is making efforts to organize the plant’s workers.
The UAW, along with a Mississippi congressman and the local head of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), early this month announced an effort to organize the Canton Nissan workers.
The UAW has said that Nissan held “captive” meetings with its workers in Canton as a way to convince them not to support any union-organizing drive, a charge that Nissan has denied.
The Canton plant near the Mississippi state capital of Jackson is also the production site of Nissan’s best-selling Altima mid-sized sedan.
The Sentra for the North American market is now made at the Nissan plant in Aguascalientes in Mexico. Production of the Sentra will continue at Aguascalientes, Nissan officials said.
Sentra sales fell 18 percent in the United States through May this year to 46,773, while Altima sales have risen 21 percent to 135,289. Overall, Nissan sales, including its luxury Infiniti brand, rose 12 percent through May, less than the auto industry’s gain of 13 percent.
Nissan is aggressively adding to its production of vehicles at the Canton plant, its plant in Smyrna, Tennessee and in Mexico to boost the No. 2 Japanese automaker’s profile in the competitive U.S., Canadian and Mexican markets.
In the United States, Nissan is the sixth-largest automaker and the third-biggest import brand after Japanese automakers Toyota Motor Corp and Honda Motor Co Ltd.