NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Nissan North America Inc. said Wednesday it will offer buyouts to employees at the company's two Tennessee plants and eliminate a night shift at one plant because rising fuel prices and the economic downturn have slowed sales of trucks and sport utility vehicles.
The technicians and salaried employees at the assembly plant in Smyrna and powertrain plant in Decherd will be offered a lump sum of $100,000 or $125,000 depending on tenure, as well as medical and car purchase benefits, the company said.
Nissan spokesman Fred Standish said that even though the company is ending night shift truck production effective Aug. 11, it does not plan any layoffs.
"We've never laid off anybody in Smyrna and we don't intend to do it now," he said.
Standish said employees on the shift that is being eliminated are expected to either take buyouts or move into jobs made vacant from other workers taking the buyouts.
"There's going to be a lot of movement and realignment," he said.
The two plants have about 1,200 more employees right now than they need, he said.
About 775 employees at the two plants took a buyout offered last year. That package included a $45,000 lump sum payment and $500 for every year of service.
Of the more generous package being offered this year, Standish said, "More incentive speaks for itself. We need to get our size of employment right vis-a-vis the market."
Employees who accept the buyout before the Sept. 12 deadline can chose whether they would like to participate in 2008, 2009 or 2010, according to a news release from the company. Employees will also have the opportunity to sign up again in 2009 and in 2010 but the benefit levels will not be as generous.
Standish said the company has no immediate plans to increase car production in Smyrna, about 20 miles southeast of Nashville, but he added, "Our plants are very, very flexible. If everybody wants an Altima tomorrow we can certainly crank it up."
Nissan employs about 5,500 hourly and salaried employees at its Smyrna plant, which builds the Altima coupe, sedan and hybrid, the Frontier pickup, Xterra sport utility vehicle, Pathfinder SUV, and Maxima sedan.
About 1,100 hourly and salaried employees work at the powertrain assembly plant in Decherd, about 60 miles northwest of Chattanooga.
The announcement comes a week after Nissan dedicated it's new North America headquarters in Middle Tennessee.