NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- Nissan Motor Co. announced Thursday it is moving its North American headquarters from California to the Nashville area.
"The board of Nissan decided to relocate our North American headquarters, and we're coming to Tennessee," Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn said at a news conference at the state Capitol attended by Gov. Phil Bredesen and other top state officials.
The headquarters, which has been based in Gardena, Calif., will move to Williamson County, a fast-growing suburb south of Nashville.
Ghosn said the company will invest $17 million to build a new headquarters building. The first employees will transfer to Tennessee next summer.
The nearly 1,300 people employed at Nissan's Los Angeles-area headquarters work in management, marketing, advertising, sales and distribution and dealership development for North America.
Ghosn cited lower real estate and business taxes as major reasons for the move.
"The costs of doing business in Southern California are much higher than the costs of doing business in Tennessee," he said.
Nissan currently has a manufacturing headquarters in Smyrna and an engine plant in Decherd and employs more than 7,000 people in Tennessee.
CalsonicKansei North America in Shelbyville is a major Nissan supplier.
"Nissan is no stranger to Tennessee. Our understanding of the business climate here has been formed by 25 years of experience," Ghosn said.
Nissan's plant in Smyrna was built in 1980 as the company's first factory outside Japan. Altima cars, Xterra and Pathfinder sport utility vehicles and Frontier pickups are manufactured there.
In June the company announced it would produce its first more fuel-efficient hybrid vehicle at the plant, which is one of the top North American vehicle assembly plants in terms of productivity.
Dallas, where Nissan employs about 800 people in a finance operations center, also had been mentioned as a potential new headquarters site.
A former Nissan executive who led the Japanese carmaker's U.S. expansion in the 1950s had advised the company it would be making a big mistake to leave California. Yutaka Katayama, known as "Mr. K", said in a recent letter to Ghosn that a move to the Nashville area or Texas would hurt the company's image and prestige.