Nissan North America Inc. recently announced it will enter the light commercial-vehicle segment with three new vehicles made in the United States, the automaker reports.

The first of the three all-new vehicles designed specifically for North America is expected to be launched in the first half of 2010.

Nissan’s plant in Canton, Miss., will be the hub for the commercial vehicles in North America. The automaker named former Ford Motor Co. executive Joe Castelli to be vice president of light commercial vehicle and fleet.

Nissan said it is planning to invest $118 million in the Canton plant to handle the work. Nissan’s Canton plant currently builds the Nissan Altima sedan, Quest minivan, Titan pickup, and Infiniti QX56 SUV.

Dealers will be selected from Nissan’s existing network for sales and servicing of the new vehicles.

Nissan also said it signed partnerships with Cummins Inc. for the vehicles’ diesel engines and ZF Friedrichshafen AG for the transmissions. Two different Cummins diesel engines tailored specifically for Nissan’s new vehicles will be produced in the United States. Gasoline engines will also be available.

Nissan’s Titan full-size pickup line could receive a diesel engine from the Cummins engines developed for the new commercial vehicles.

The new light commercial vehicle could come in the form of light buses, vans, taxi cabs, or delivery trucks. The vehicles would be under 8 tons gross vehicle weight, and will be built on all new platforms, developed from the ground up, Nissan reports.

All Nissan commercial vehicles for the U.S. market would be Class 1 through 5.

Development of the platforms is already underway at the Nissan Technical Center North America in Farmington Hills, Mich.

To make room for the new business, Nissan said it will not produce the next-generation Nissan Quest minivan and Infiniti QX56 luxury SUV at Canton.

Originally posted on Work Truck Online