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Nissan invests in production to prepare for electric age

by Ace Damon

Nissan is investing 33 billion yen ($ 303 million) in its main car factory in Tochigi Prefecture, Japan, for the first launch of a production system geared toward electric vehicles.

Nissan Motor Co. executive vice president Hideyuki Sakamoto said on Thursday manufacturing methods must change because vehicles increasingly have hybrid and electric engines and new parts for connectivity and artificial intelligence services.

Sakamoto said changes in production, due to be completed next year, use robotics and sensors to reduce the physical stress of assembly line workers. They are adapted to an increasingly manned workforce by women and senior workers.

Among the innovations of Nissan's so-called "smart factory" is a powertrain mounting system that allows at least 27 configurations to be installed in one procedure.

Parts, including the battery for electric vehicles, are mounted on a "pallet" or foundation unit for easy installation on the vehicle.

Another innovation involves programming a worker's skill in robotics. The movements are so refined in the automated sealing process that the delicate angles and touches of a human worker are doubled.

The advantage of such a system is that a robot's work is consistent and tireless while maintaining the quality of craftsmanship, according to Nissan.

"An automaker's competitiveness lies in production as well as design and technology development," Sakamoto told reporters.

Automobile production methods have remained largely the same since the early 1900s. But vehicles are becoming more complex as driver-assistive technology, hybrid systems and various types of batteries need to be installed depending on the vehicle, Sakamoto said. .

Production methods will later be implemented at Nissan factories in Japan and elsewhere in the world, but the details are undecided.

Yokohama-based Nissan, which makes the March subcompact Leaf electric car and Infiniti luxury models, is eager to deliver a message of innovation as it faces a serious risk to its reputation amid falling profits and sales.

Former Nissan president Carlos Ghosn is awaiting trial for several allegations of financial misconduct. Nissan has recognized flaws in its corporate governance.

Your new chief executive will take office next week. Ghosn's successor, Hiroto Saikawa, also resigned, acknowledging financial misconduct.

All other major global automakers are working on smart, connected and electric vehicles. But Nissan has made a breakthrough in many of the innovations, especially in electric vehicles, thanks in large part to Ghosn.

Ghosn says he is innocent and accuses other Nissan people of plotting to get rid of him and block a more complete integration with his alliance partner Renault SA of France.


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