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Nissan drops $170 million to improve US plants for 2019 Altima

Its plant in Smyrna, Tennessee has been producing Nissans in the US for 35 years.

Nissan's Smyrna plant was recently retooled for production of the second-generation Leaf, which is the car seen here.

The first Nissan Altima rolled off the line in Smyrna, Tennessee in June 1992. Since then, it's built nearly 4.6 million midsize sedans. So when it came time to figure out where to build the all-new 2019 Altima, outsourcing was probably never even an option.

Nissan announced today that it has invested $170 million to upgrade two of its facilities tasked with building the 2019 Nissan Altima. In addition to the plant in Smyrna, Nissan also allocated some funds for its vehicle assembly facility in Canton, Mississippi.

Nissan didn't spill all the details on how that money was spent, but it pointed to several key upgrades at its facilities. There's a new laser brazing system that will help weld the 2019 Altima's trunk, as well as a paint shop update that utilizes a "polyurethane stone guard coat paint system" that Nissan claims will improve the paint durability. It also added some calibration equipment to help with the Altima's new ProPilot Assist driver aids.

The automaker has invested almost $12 billion into its US manufacturing efforts. Smyrna's facility started operations in 1983, and since then it's produced more than 13 million vehicles, which means Altima accounts for about one-third of the plant's net production. It's also responsible for building the Leaf, Maxima, Pathfinder and Rogue, in addition to Infiniti's QX60.

The 2019 Nissan Altima will be one of its most ambitious models when it goes on sale this fall. It'll be Nissan's first US sedan with optional all-wheel drive, as well as Nissan's first US sedan with the ProPilot Assist suite of semi-autonomous driver aids. Two new engines are on offer, but the more important of the two is Nissan's VC-Turbo engine, which uses linkages in the crankshaft assembly to change the engine's compression ratio on the fly, prioritizing efficiency or performance as needed.