A NEW chapter in the history of Nissan’s Wearside plant began yesterday, with bosses looking to break yet more records within the next year.
The Washington factory yesterday began to turn out the first of the new design Qashqai, the model company leaders have championed as their most successful yet.
They say within the next 12 months, it will take production of the car beyond two million in eight years, which will be a record for the industry, with £534million of investment put into it by the firm.
While the Qashqai production line, which also builds the electric Leaf car, operates round the clock, the company says demand has previously outstripped its capacity. A new Qashqai will be completed every 61 seconds by the workforce, with the revamped version lower, longer and wider with reduced emissions.
Trevor Mann, the company’s chief performance officer, has hailed the model, which first went into production in 2007, as its “most important car in Europe”.
He said: “We fought hard to win the Qashqai for Sunderland back in 2006, and again to secure this second generation model.
“Qashqai now represents £534million investment in our UK design, engineering and manufacturing operations. This means we have real confidence in the future.”
Among those who will be working on the new cars is Lewis Richardson, 50, from Hetton.
The former Murton pit worker, who is married to Angela and is dad to Katie, 23, and Daniel 26, has worked at the site for 22 years.
He said: “It’s job security for the lads on the shop floor and if their jobs were advertised, there would be a queue from here to France for them.
“I think the buzz came when we knew we had the new model and from the shop floor now, the pressure is off because we know we have it and now we can get on with the work.” Councillor Harry Trueman, deputy leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “It’s absolutely fantastic and we have a plant here that has an impact around the world, so I think Sunderland is very much at the centre of the economy of the country.”
Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West, said: “This is yet another fantastic milestone for Nissan, and I know the whole community will join me in hoping that the new Qashqai is at least as successful as the last one, and that it will continue to create employment and training opportunities for young people in Washington and the wider area for years to come.”
Within the North East, the factory supports 29,000 jobs, with 4,000 of those production roles at the plant. The firm exports 80 per cent of the Qashqais made in Sunderland.