NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) – Nissan Motor Co. announced yesterday it is moving its North American headquarters and nearly 1,300 jobs from California to the Nashville area to take advantage of the lower cost of doing business in the Southeast.

Andrew Skidmore
Nissan President and CEO Carlos Ghosn, left, answers questions about the relocation of Nissan North American headquarters to middle Tennessee as Gov. Phil Bredesen, left, looks on in Nashville, Tenn.
(AP Photo)

“The board of Nissan decided to relocate our North American headquarters, and we’re coming to Tennessee,” Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said at a news conference at the state Capitol attended by Gov. Phil Bredesen and other top state officials.

The headquarters, which has been based in Gardena, Calif., will relocate to Williamson County, a suburban area south of Nashville.

Industry analysts say the move could threaten Southern California’s dominance as a hub for Japanese automakers and strengthen the Southeast’s standing as a major manufacturing center for automakers.

Ghosn said the company will invest $70 million to build a new headquarters building in Franklin, which is expected to be complete by 2008. The first employees will transfer to Tennessee next summer and work out of temporary offices in downtown Nashville.

The nearly 1,300 people employed at Nissan’s Los Angeles-area headquarters work in management, marketing, advertising, sales and distribution and dealership development for North America. Ghosn said he expects about half the California employees will move to Tennessee, but he’s not sure of the exact number.

Ghosn cited lower real estate and business taxes as major reasons for the move.

“The costs of doing business in Southern California are much higher than the costs of doing business in Tennessee,” he said.

Tennessee government officials say they offered Nissan an incentives package, which included tax breaks and other credits, but did not give a total amount Thursday.

Nissan currently has a manufacturing headquarters in Smyrna and an engine plant in Decherd and employs more than 7,000 people in Tennessee. Nissan’s plant in Smyrna was built in 1980 as the company’s first factory outside Japan. Altima cars, Xterra and Pathfinder sport utility vehicles and Frontier pickups are manufactured there.

Nissan was one of the first of several major carmakers – DaimlerChrysler AG’s Mercedes division, BMW AG, General Motors Corp.’s Saturn unit, Toyota Motor Corp. and Hyundai Motor Co. – to build plants in the Southeast. The region remains one of the cheapest areas to do business in the country because of low taxes, wages and real estate costs.

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