Nissan launches production of 2021 Rogue at Smyrna assembly plant.
Production of the 2021 Nissan Rogue launched Tuesday at the Nissan North America vehicle assembly plant in Smyrna, Tennessee — right on schedule, despite pandemic setbacks.
President Donald Trump praised the launch in a tweet early Tuesday, prompting additional praise for the company from Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee.
“We are proud that Nissan has called Tennessee home for 37 years,” Lee wrote in a tweet. “We celebrate this exciting milestone with the entire Nissan team!”
The Smyrna Vehicle Assembly Plant team had just started their first week of production trials for the new model when the pandemic hit, shutting the plant down for three months, according to Jeff Younginer, the plant’s vice president of manufacturing.
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Unable to train technicians in person, the new model team recorded themselves building the vehicle. When the technicians began a staggered return in July, they learned the standardized assembly processes from written procedures and the instructional videos, something Younginer said Nissan will likely continue to use to augment training even after the pandemic.
“We really set a new benchmark for how we’re going to launch vehicles going forward, and we’re here today, on schedule, launching the vehicle,” Younginer said in an interview with The Tennessean. “My hat’s off to this team. They make me extremely proud.”
Going rogue, again
The Nissan Rogue is the brand’s best selling vehicle. The Smyrna plant built more than 1 million of the Rogue’s last generation, and Younginer said it’s “truly an honor” to produce the next generation in Smyrna.
“It really shows the confidence and trust that the senior leadership in Nissan have for the Smyrna team to produce the most important vehicle in the lineup,” Younginer said. “So it’s very good for us. Obviously, when you’ve got the highest volume vehicle along with five other vehicles, we’ve got a lot of production here … it’s a lot of responsibility, but a great team making it happen.”
Nissan North America’s Smyrna plant is the highest-volume assembly plant in Nissan North America with an annual production capacity of about 640,000 vehicles. The plant employs about 7,000 people and produces the Nissan Altima, Maxima, LEAF, Pathfinder and INFINITI QX60 in addition to the Rogue.
Tuesday marks the beginning of the ramp-up process for the 2021 Nissan Rogue, which will reach full production in about six weeks. The plant will continue to manufacture its other five car models while producing the Rogue, three models on each line.
Technicians send about 80 cars down each line every hour, amounting to about one car every 40 seconds, Younginer said.
The 2021 Rogue crossover has a heavy focus on technology, featuring a wireless cellphone charger and three digital displays, including a display that projects speed and navigation directions on its windshield. It also offers a slew of safety features and assisted driving technology that adjusts to the flow of traffic and can increase or decrease speed according to speed limits and upcoming turns and intersections.
Its “Intelligent All-Wheel Drive” system spans five driving modes, tailored for off-road adventures, commuting, eco-friendly driving, snow driving and “sport mode.”
The new Rogue’s interior features wider rear entry doors and has options for quilted leather seats, built-in rear window sun shades and ambient lighting.
The model should be available to consumers later this fall.
When the Smyrna plant began welcoming workers back in a staggered startup in July, “the whole environment … changed,” Younginer said.
“From the time you walk in the turnstiles, you’ll see plexiglass barriers, social distancing markers getting into the plant … (and) the break area tables, they have partitions to keep everybody separated because you take off your mask when you eat and drink,” he said.
Masks are a key part of the plant’s health safety protocols, and technicians work on the line wearing masks, safety goggles and other personal protective equipment. Partitions also separate workers on the line where possible.
Every two hours, the plant shuts the line down for a break and all tools and touch points are sanitized.
But during the three-month shutdown, Nissan workers were not idle. Teams helped produce more than 100,000 face shields that were delivered to the local community, and Nissan has been active in food drives and a United Way fundraising campaign.
“It’s not just about building cars here, that’s one of our taglines — we build more than just cars — and that’s really what I’m proud about from this team,” Younginer said.
Reach Cassandra Stephenson at ck[email protected] or at (731) 694-7261. Follow Cassandra on Twitter at @CStephenson731.
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