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Nissan Gears Up to Launch 30 New Models

The Nissan Motor Co., Ltd. is planning to launch 30 new models through March 2008, the Associated Press reported. This move is anchored on the goal to compete closely with other automakers.

To ensure quality, the third largest Japanese automaker has built the $42 million Global Production Engineering Center in Zama city. "We are about to go on a major offensive," said Senior Vice President Toshiharu Sakai.

The facility is meant to prevent problems of new models such as when a digital design looks right but turns out inappropriate. The purpose of the center is to safeguard quality regardless of where the vehicles are manufactured - whether in India, Russia or in the United States.

Nissan, which runs 26 vehicle plants around the world, has been producing more cars outside its home since 2003. The automaker has acknowledged that quality has sometimes suffered in recent years abroad, especially its new U.S. plant in Canton, Miss.

Like any other auto plant, assembly lines at GPEC are busy working on Nissan header pipe, body parts, accessories, and other auto equipment. The only difference is that the robots are there for testing purposes only. The new facility, which was earlier shown to reporters, is part of the automaker's efforts to formulate potent kinks in production for the 30 new model launches.

The 30 new models are crucial to the automaker's aim to overturn its depleting sales. The GPEC will also be applied to all future global undertaking of the Japanese automaker. In the past, things have gone wrong in production, such as when a design for an auto part that looked right in its digital design stages turned out not to fit properly. The testing center is meant to prevent such problems.

Testing production in advance on mock assembly lines might help fine-tune production and improve product quality, said Shozo Takata, a science and engineering professor at Waseda University. "It could serve the purpose of separating problems at the design stage from problems at the production stage," he said in a telephone interview. "That tends to be meaningful."

Sakai and other Nissan officials are determined to grab hold of potential glitches early in time to avoid further trouble. With 30 models going into production worldwide in twelve months, production for three or more models needs to be tested a month - quite a challenge for the center, Sakai said.

When problems are found, they are corrected at once. The new production schemes go to the plants, usually as digital data. The center also carries out test-drives in a room, where bumpy roads are simulated and temperatures are adjusted from freezing to tropical hot.

William Schwartz, the executive vice president of TBM Consulting Group, which advises companies on production methods, said that other Japanese automakers, including the Toyota Motor Corp. and the Honda Motor Co., test out production methods for experimentation and changes before full-scale production. "The goal of production preparation is to create the best method with the least amount of waste," Schwartz said in an e-mail. "Worker productivity is improved regardless of the country or culture."

Nissan Executive Vice President Hidetoshi Imazu said that the center helps cut the time for development and production preparation. "It is important that Nissan maintains the high levels of quality that our customers expect," he said.

In one demonstration, a cockpit of a car, which includes the glove compartment, steering wheel, and other front interior parts, was positioned into the frame of a vehicle, to make sure it fit suitably.

About The Author Ryan Thomas is a native of Denver, Colorado. He grew up in a family of car afficionados. He now resides in Detroit where he owns a service shop and works part time as a consultant for a local automotive magazine.
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