Nissan Goes Commercial

Nissan Motor Co. said Monday it will build and sell light commercial vehicles in the U.S., using its existing work force and factories.

The Japanese automaker said it will enter the U.S. market with three vehicles starting in the first half of 2010, all built at its plant in Canton, Miss.

"We will invest more than $118 million in creating that infrastructure and on top of that we'll obviously be investing in the vehicles themselves," said Andy Palmer, Nissan's corporate vice president, at a news conference in Detroit. "This allows us to expand our capabilities using the existing work force and capitalizes on Canton's strengths."

The automaker tapped former Ford Motor Co. executive Joe Castelli to be vice president of Nissan's Light Commercial Vehicle division.

Nissan would not say what models it would build, but the company said they could run from pickup trucks to buses. Palmer said the vehicles will be built around U.S. needs.

"The powertrains and the vehicles are coming from the United States. They're being developed in Detroit, in Farmington Hills," Palmer said. "They're being sourced from the United States, built in the United States, sold in the United States for American customers."

Palmer said commercial vehicles from Ford, General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC's Dodge brand that are on the market today are "not spring chickens" and Nissan's strategy is to "serve the customer today."

Nissan has a strong presence globally in commercial vehicles, but has not sold them in the United States.