In a small victory for American autoworkers, Nissan plans to ship its locally-built V-8 engines and engine components to Japan to install in high-end Infiniti models. The engines will be used for Infiniti’s SUVs, which will then be shipped back to the U.S. for local sale.

Nissan explained that such a move would be quicker and more cost-efficient than converting one of its Japanese engine plants to start build the V-8s. It is a significant step for Nissan’s local operations as this will be the first time the company is exporting engines from the U.S. to its manufacturing operations in Japan.

The particular engine is a 5.6-liter gasoline unit that will be used in the 2011 Infiniti QX56 SUV. The current 2010 model is manufactured in Canton, Mississippi, but the next-generation 2011 model, due early next year, will be sourced from Japan. You can see leaked images of the big SUV in our previous story by clicking here.

The V-8 engine will continue to be built at Nissan’s Decherd, Tennessee engine plant. In addition to engines, Nissan will also be exporting engine blocks, heads and crankshafts, where they will be used for the Nissan Patrol full-size SUV.