updated 3/26/2007 4:22:12 PM ET 2007-03-26T20:22:12

Nissan North America Inc. announced on Friday that 775 of its employees accepted buyouts at two of the automaker's manufacturing plants in Tennessee.

The voluntary offers, which include a $45,000 lump sum payment plus $500 for each year of service and retirement benefits in some cases, were made last month to 6,200 production and maintenance technicians. When it announced the offer, Nissan said it expected at least 300 workers to accept because that was the number eligible for retirement.

Nissan spokesman Fred Standish said the company does not have plans at this point to hire more employees for the plants.

"The total number is good for us," he said. "We can continue producing."

Nissan said that 681 employees at its plant in Smyrna and 94 employees at Decherd decided to take advantage of the offers. Retirements accounted for 303 of the combined number.

Nissan, which recently moved its North American headquarters to Nashville from Los Angeles, employs 5,200 hourly employees in Smyrna. About 1,000 people work at the company's plant in Decherd.

The program was not offered to employees at other Nissan manufacturing locations in North America.

Employees at the two Tennessee plants had until March 13 to decide whether to accept the offers. The ones who do accept, must resign or retire from the company by June 30.

The plant in Smyrna assembles the Pathfinder and Xterra SUVs, Frontier pickups and Altima and Maxima passenger cars. The one in Decherd builds engines.

The Japanese automaker said it offered the buyouts because of higher demand for passenger cars, such as the Altima, combined with lower demand for trucks and sport utility vehicles. That's resulted in a manufacturing mix less labor-intensive to build and requiring fewer assembly workers.

"This program has resulted in tangible benefits for employees and the company," said Dan Gaudette, senior vice president of north American manufacturing and supply chain management.

"Each person is unique, but several employees have already told us the program will allow them to return to school full-time, to start up businesses they have dreamed about or to start enjoying their retirement. It was the right program at the right time."

The last time Nissan downsized its staff in Tennessee came in 1998, when the company offered a pension enhancement to hourly employees. At that point, 66 out of 146 of those eligible for the offer accepted it.

In North America, Nissan's operations include automotive styling, engineering, consumer and corporate financing, sales and marketing, distribution and manufacturing.

Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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