When the state released export figures earlier this spring, there was one wrinkle that caught our eye. Exports from Tennessee to the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain jumped three hundred percent in the final months of 2012. Driving the increase is the latest model of the Nissan Altima, built at the company’s plant in Smyrna.
Dubai is a city known for excess, and Nissan laid it on thick when it rolled out the new Altima there last year. The automaker threw a glitzy party in a sports arena, where thumping techno music played as a 3-d hologram of the car was projected on a gigantic screen.
Nissan shipped 20,000 Altimas from Smyrna to the Middle East last year. The company plans to increase that number by 50 percent over the next two years. The company wants to be a major player in the region, though it’s only sold cars there for about a decade.
CEO Carlos Ghosn, who’s of Lebanese descent, has done numerous interviews with Arabic news channels and is pushing a relentless TV ad campaign for the new Altima.
Auto sales are up across the Middle East, especially American models. GM and Ford both say their sales in the region jumped by double digits in 2012.