NISSAN’S new Qashqai will be a winner for the whole of Wearside, the man in charge of making it a reality has vowed.
Kevin Fitzpatrick, pictured, vice-president for manufacturing, was speaking just hours after the motor giant’s global president Carlos Ghosn announced the Sunderland factory is to build an all-new version of the best-selling car.
The news, which guarantees thousands of jobs at the plant and its supply chain, was greeted with delight across the region.
The new Qashqai will again be an all-British creation – conceived at Nissan’s European Design Centre in Paddington, engineered at its European technical centre Europe in Bedfordshire, and built in Sunderland.
The move is expected to safeguard 6,000 jobs, both at the plant and across the factory’s UK supply chain, with Nissan investing £192million to make it a reality.
The Qashqai has been a remarkable success for Nissan – and Sunderland. The plant will build its millionth Qashqai later this month and more than 80 per cent of cars are exported to 97 markets worldwide.
But Mr Fitzpatrick said the car had been a victim of its own success and needed updating to stay ahead of the competition.
“When we first launched Qashqai, there was not a competitor. It was a new concept,” he said, “but we have seen competitors coming through since.”
Any overhaul would build on the strengths of the model which had proved such a hit.
“The car has been such a big success for the company and it is such an important product that the production designers will get it right,” he said.
Mr Ghosn made his announcement during a Downing Street meeting with Prime Minister David Cameron yesterday.
He said: “The UK has been a cornerstone of Nissan manufacturing since 1986, with the Sunderland plant setting important benchmarks for quality and efficiency in Europe and around the world.
“It’s the home of the Qashqai, one of Nissan’s biggest product successes. And as Nissan’s leadership in sustainable transportation grows, the plant will become one of the pillars of our zero-emission manufacturing.”
Mr Cameron added: “This investment from Nissan is fantastic news and a great demonstration of the strength and vitality of the UK car industry. That future manufacturing and research and design has been secured is a tribute to the skill, expertise and hard work of Nissan’s UK workforce.
“It is vital we have a strong manufacturing base to rebalance our economy and secure sustainable economic growth.
“I have seen first hand the tremendous work at the Nissan Sunderland plant. This is a great day for them, the whole of the North East and for UK manufacturing too.”
* Sunderland’s Nissan plant was a recipient of the Hotspur Award last night.
Handed out by the Northumbrian Association to firms which raise the profile of the region, the company received the award at the association’s annual dinner at the House of Commons.