Nissan Australia is the last OEM parts manufacturer in Australia and celebrates its 35th anniversary this year.
Opening its doors in 1982, the 90,000-square metre site produces 2.5 million casings and 23,000 accessories every year for export to countries around the globe. It survives during a time when other local manufacturers such as Toyota and Holden have shut their doors.
The Nissan Casting Plant (NCAP) specialises in producing diecast parts and has 13 multi-million dollar diecast machines ranging from 'small' 580 tonne units up to large 2500 tonne machines capable of producing cases for electric motors and gearboxes. An aircraft pushback tug is required just to move the units (which Nissan also makes).
Some of the parts made include tow bars and oil pans which will be used in the production of new Nissan vehicles such as the Qashqai, Navara and X-Trail, and also Renault-Nissan cars like the Renault Koleos.
Recently, the site has begun production of parts for Nissan’s latest electric vehicles, including the Leaf and Note, and the local manufacturer’s ability to setup a high-quality working diecast in a short amount of time won it business over competing plants around the world.
The site’s superior quality and ability to put parts into production quickly - particularly for EVs - has won it new contracts which will see its future guaranteed until at least 2025.
“We have exclusive supply contracts awarded by Nissan Global that will keep the plant operating well into the next decade,” says NCAP managing director Peter Jones.
“This includes the just-released New Nissan Leaf, which includes an EV water jacket inverter, inverter cover, inverter case and motor stator housing that all come directly out of Dandenong. This is significant for Australian manufacturing.”
The quality of components at the site is so high that the final pieces are matched to tolerances within 50 microns, or half a human hair width, of the original design.
NCAP staff consists of 192 employees with many skilled workers adding to the sites appeal as a specialist in high quality components.
The final products are shipped to countries including the USA, Mexico, Japan and Europe, but some return once fitted to fully assembled vehicles ready for sale here.
The Aussie-made components fitted to Nissan-Renault alliance cars around the world can be easily recognised by a unique kangaroo symbol embossed on every part that leaves the factory. Jones is proud that NCAP has resisted the recent demise of manufacturing here.
“Nissan Casting Australia is defying the belief that automotive manufacturing doesn’t have a place in our country. If you want evidence of ‘made in Australia’ you’ll find it here,” Jones said.
“In the last two years we have committed over $11million to NCAP.
“This investment was supported by financial grants from the State Government of Victoria, and the Federal Government, both of which understand the importance of continued local manufacturing.”
Operating at around 80 per cent capacity there’s plenty of blue sky for the local manufacturer which recorded $82.5 million worth of export sales in the last financial year and is optimistic of its future.
“We have exclusive supply contracts awarded by Nissan Global that will keep the plant operating well into the next decade," said Jones.
“There should be no doubt, Nissan is still a fully integrated OEM car brand in Australia."
However, success is not easy and Jones calls current profit, which is barely more than breaking even, a good result. Numerous government grants have helped keep the site in business which have been handed out over the years and include amounts of between $800,000 to $3.7 million, the most recent being a $2.5 million grant.
Nissan itself has invested around $120 million over the life of the plant and while its manufacturing costs are benchmarked continually to other sites around world, it expects to continue its success into the future.
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