Nissan Leaf Component Production Assigned to Australian Plant

Melbourne aluminum foundry will be updated before production starts in 2012


Nissan Motor Co. has designated its aluminum foundry in Melbourne, Australia, as the sole manufacturer of critical cast components for its Nissan Leaf. The plant is the sole manufacturing plant for Nissan in Australia, and produces cylinder heads, oil sumps, and gearbox casings, among other cast products at a rate of about 8,800 tons/year.

The Nissan Leaf is a five-door midsized electric hatchback that is advertised as a “zero emission” vehicle: the name is an acronym for “Leading, Environmentally friendly, Affordable Family car.” It has been available in Japan and the U.S. since late 2010 and will be introduced globally in the coming months. U.S. EPA states the car — which has been available commercially since late last year — has a fuel economy equivalent to 99 miles per gallon.

The Melbourne plant will be the object of $23 million in improvements before production begins. This will include about $14.2 million for new tooling and $8.8 million to add an extra 20,000-m 2 of production space.

The new contract is valued at about $176 million, according to reports. The plant will produce an inverter case, inverter water jacket, water jacket cover, and a fourth, unidentified component. Nissan Casting Australia’s output for the Leaf contract is estimated at 22,000 components per month by late 2013.

The components will be produced using new casting technologies developed by Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Centre for Applied Special Technology (CAST) Co-operative Research Centre (CRC). The latter conducts industry-driven research in metals technology.

Nissan Australia CEO Dan Thompson explained that the federal and Victoria state government incentives were significant factors in landing the Nissan contract. "It is testimony to the fact that Australia has positioned itself as a highly creditable player in a fiercely competitive global manufacturing landscape that we are able to make this very positive announcement today,” he stated.

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