The second Japanese vehicle plant in the United States is now off and running. More than seven months after the first 4-door Honda Accord rolled off the line in Marysville, Tenn., Nissan is building pickup trucks in Tennessee.
By this time next year Nissan, the world's fourth-largest automaker - after General Motors, Ford, and Toyota - will be producing up to 10,000 vehicles a month with a work force of 2,000. Dedication of the plant isn't scheduled till fall.
Meanwhile, Honda expects to launch a second shift at its Ohio plant around Labor Day.
The Marysville plant, next to the motorcycle assembly plant near Columbus, is turning out 4,000 Accords a month and, says Cliff Schmillen, head of sales, ''should be running at capacity for one shift of 6,000 a month sometime in August. Then they start up the second shift and in less than a year that will be at capacity as well.''
Total production at full capacity is 12,000 cars a month.
Nissan announced its decision to produce cars in the United States in April 1980 and broke ground on the 782-acre site in Smyrna, Tenn., near Nashville, the next February. The plant is considered one of the most technologically advanced auto plants in the world, employing 220 robots in welding and painting processes.
The Japanese carmaker spent $660 million to launch car-assembly operations in the United States, the largest Nissan investment outside Japan.
The American auto industry has long complained about what it calls the unfair advantage Japanese carmakers have in the United State because of the weak yen vis-a-vis the dollar.
A Japanese car with a factory price of 125 million yen would be worth $5,952 at the 1978 exchange rate of 210 yen to the dollar, but at its low point last November - 278 yen to the dollar - the car would cost $4,496. In April, it would cost $5,274, based on an exchange rate of around 237 to the dollar.
Thus, between 1978 and its nadir last November, the financial advantage to Japanese carmakers was $1,450 based on exchange rates alone.
American car dealers are up in arms over fleet sales, charging that the retail buyer is overcharged some $250 to pay for the subsidies carmakers allot to giant rental companies, such as Hertz and Avis, as well as the big leasing firms in the United States.
''Last year America built 5 million cars,'' hammers Ed Mullane, a Ford dealer , with ''4 million of them sold to retail customers through dealers. The other million went to the fleet and lease market.''
Fleet subsidies have reached $1 billion a year, according to Mr. Mullane, ''and the cost is built into the price of the car and paid by the retail customer.''
Auto dealers have introduced a bill in Congress to outlaw fleet subsidies.