"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 relocate to Williamson County, a suburban area south of Nashville.
Industry analysts say the move could threaten Southern California's dominance as a hub for Japanese automakers and strengthen the Southeast's standing as a major vehicle manufacturing center.
Ghosn said the company will invest $70 million to build a new headquarters building in Franklin, which is expected to be complete by 2008. The first employees will transfer to Tennessee next summer and work out of temporary offices in downtown Nashville.
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 said he expects about half the California employees will move to Tennessee, but he's not sure of the exact number.
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.
Tennessee government officials say they offered Nissan an incentives package, which included tax breaks and other credits, but did not give a total amount Thursday.
California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said he talked with Nissan officials two or three weeks ago when he heard of the potential relocation, but learned the company had been considering the move for two years.