NISSAN today launches its new design Qashqai as the company reveals its Wearside workforce has topped 7,000 for the first time in its 28-year history.
The car giant is celebrating the milestone as the new model prepared to roll off the lines.
A new design Qashqai will be built every 61 seconds in the Washington factory following a £500million cash injection.
The achievement comes as Prime Minister David Cameron hailed the plant for its work, which supports a total of 40,000 design, engineering, manufacturing, marketing and sales jobs across the UK.
The Sunderland factory’s workforce has been credited with their part in the success of the crossover car, which combines the design of a sports utility vehicle and car.
Trevor Mann CBE, Nissan’s chief performance officer, said: “The Nissan Qashqai blazed a trail when we started production in 2006.
“It invented the crossover segment, propelled the Nissan brand in Europe to a new level and helped our plant in Sunderland to set new standards in productivity and quality.
“The new Qashqai, with its bold design and segment-leading technology, will once again elevate Nissan to a new level, as the benchmark for the second generation of crossovers and our flagship model in Europe.”
A film featuring Sunderland staff will be played at a ceremony today as the new Qashqai begins to roll off the production line.
The firm says international economic impact of Qashqai now spreads from Sunderland across the world, with £534million now invested by Nissan in its development and production.
The car supports more than 224 suppliers in 22 countries and is exported to more than 130 global markets.
Mr Cameron said: “It’s great news that the new model Qashqai is rolling off the production line in Sunderland.
“Nissan supports 40,000 jobs across the UK, and when you add that to the half a billion pound investment that Nissan have made in this country for this new model, it shows how our long term plan is giving companies the confidence to invest and create jobs in Britain.”
Today’s announcement is a far cry from the dark days of 2009, when the company said it would have to cut 1,200 jobs because of the economic downturn.
Mr Mann, who also holds the title of executive vice president, added: “Behind the rise of Qashqai is the operational excellence of Nissan’s design, engineering and manufacturing operations. It gives me great pleasure to return to Sunderland today to thank and pay tribute to the many thousands of colleagues at Nissan and in our supply base who have contributed to this success.”
The new Nissan Qashqai is built on Sunderland’s Line one, which has been running on 24-hour operations since 2010.