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Nissan Oz hops into casting exports

On the hop: A tiny kangaroo signifies an Australian-made casting from Nissan’s Dandenong plant.

Electric powertrain castings start rolling from Nissan’s Australian plant for Japan

23 Jul 2012

NISSAN’S electric Leaf will wear a couple of tiny kangaroo symbols under the bonnet in future, courtesy of aluminium components from the company’s Australian casting plant.

The first shipment of Leaf powertrain castings stamped with the Australian symbol were exported to Japan this week in a move that has helped to secure the medium-term future of the factory in Dandenong, Victoria.

The factory, which already produces castings for a range of other Nissan vehicles built overseas, won the contract last year to produce the inverter case, inverter water jacket and water jacket cover for electric vehicles such as the current Leaf, 2013 e-NV200 van and – potentially – Infiniti LE due in 2014.

The $21 million EV casting project uses breakthrough casting treatment techniques developed in Australia by the CSIRO, and was clinched by a $3.3 million co-investment grant from the Australian government’s now-defunct green car innovation fund, along with cash from the Victorian government.

Nissan Australia managing director Bill Peffer said everyone at Nissan Australia was excited to be playing a tangible role in the production of zero-emission electric vehicles.

“To see ‘job number one’ for the electric vehicle parts production finished and exported is a landmark moment for the Nissan casting plant,” he said.

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“These electric vehicle parts are part of more than two million components and accessories made at the Nissan Casting Plant each year, contributing to the overall growth of success of Nissan both in Australia and globally.”

The project, which was awarded to Nissan Australia last year, will eventually produce around $160 million in export revenue.

As GoAuto reported last year, the Nissan casting plant came perilously close to shutting forever two years ago, in the wake of the global financial crisis.

The plant – the last remnant of Nissan’s manufacturing presence in Australia – was restructured, with new management and a focus on improved productivity.

About $13 million has been spent on new tooling for the Leaf casting process, with $8 million going towards factory refurbishments that had not received a significant upgrade since it opened 30 years ago.

This year, the plant will produce more than two million aluminium castings for Nissan plants in Japan, Thailand, Mexico and the United States.

Apart from the Leaf parts, castings include transmission housings, clutch housings, rear drive housings, cylinder heads and oil pan assemblies for vehicles such as the Navara, Dualis, Pathfinder, Murano and X-Trail.

To further shore up its future, the plant is branching out into accessory production, making genuine-equipment tow bars, ute sports bars and other similar items.

The Nissan casting plant currently operates three shifts, six days a week and employs about 140 full-time employees.

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