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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Australia to supply Nissan Leaf components

Japanese car maker Nissan's last remaining manufacturing presence in Australia has won a $160 million contract to supply parts for electric vehicles sold around the world.

Dandenong South-based Nissan Casting Australia announced today that it has won the contract to make aluminium components used to build a range of zero-emission vehicles including the Leaf battery-electric vehicle that will also be sold here from the middle of 2012.

The company said it will invest $21 million in the Clayton casting facility to ramp up production of inverter cases, water jackets and covers, and an as-yet-unnamed fourth component for electric cars.

The investment includes a $3.3 million taxpayer handout from the now-defunct Green Car Innovation Fund that was suspended in late January as the Federal Government cut projects to pay for a series of natural disasters that struck Queensland and Victoria.

The funds also include an undisclosed contribution from a Victorian Government business assistance grant.

''By late 2013, the Nissan casting plant is expected to be producing 22,000 electric vehicle components per month,'' the car maker said in a statement.

Nissan said the components will use new casting techniques developed by the car maker, CSIRO, and the Centre for Applied Special Technology Co-operative Research Centre.

The contract will also support about 145 existing jobs at the plant.

Nissan Australia chief executive Dan Thompson said the government support was vital in attracting the investment to Australia.

''It is of major significance that the Nissan casting plant was able to fend off competitive bids from Nissan manufacturing facilities in other parts of the globe and ... from larger Nissan plants already established in Japan and China,'' he said.

''The success in winning the contracts speaks highly of the investment Nissan has made in manufacturing technology at Dandenong.''

The casting plant already produces about 6000 tonnes of components a year, with the new contract expected to expand output to more than 8500 tonnes.

About 2 million separate parts such as transmission and clutch housings, cylinder heads and oil pan assemblies are already exported to countries including Japan, Thailand, Mexico and the US, returning to Australia as components in a number of Nissan vehicles.

The factory currently employs 146 full-time and 26 casual workers.

Nissan Casting Australia was hit hard by the global financial crisis, announcing a string of redundancies in early 2009 that reduced its workforce from about 230 employees.

The company was formed in 1982 to provide engine castings to Nissan's Australian car-making operations. When local car production ended in 1991 the casting division reinvented itself as a standalone business.

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