THE history of Nissan’s Wearside car plant is to be saved for future generations in a time capsule.
The factory in Washington is celebrating 25 years by burying the specially-made plastic case on its site.
Built on a former airfield, it was opened by then-Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher on September 8, 1986.
Since then it has produced more than 6.2million vehicles and 12 different models, including the Qashqai.
Of the 430 members of staff who were employed at the plant when it was first launched, 133 remain.
Yesterday’s time capsule ceremony was performed by two of those original members, senior vice-president for manufacturing in Europe Trevor Mann and vice-president for manufacturing in the UK, Kevin Fitzpatrick.
“It has been a tremendous 25 years,” said Mr Mann. “It has been a roller-coaster at times. We have had good times as well as bad, but we continue to do what we do best: produce top-quality cars.”
The time capsule ceremony recreated the one held when construction of the plant began.
“I think the reason Nissan has been so successful is that we have always been willing to learn, always had people who are clever and willing to work hard and compete,” said Mr Fitzpatrick.
The time capsule included a model Qashqai, a telephone directory, yesterday’s newspapers, a Sunderland AFC shirt and items donated by organisations such as the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC).
John Mowbray, NECC president, said: “It is rare that you would say a region owes so much to one company, but Nissan’s influence on the economic development of Wearside and its contribution to the wider North East sets it in that league.
“In terms of jobs, investment, skills and commitment to excellence, it truly has been a powerhouse in this region and the signs are extremely positive that it will continue to be for a long time to come.
“The North East has taken Nissan to its heart and the dedication of the workforce and the wider supply chain has ensured the senior management team in Japan repeatedly support it when awarding contracts for new models.
“This has been a two-way relationship that we have enjoyed for two-and-a-half decades. I hope it continues for another 25 years and more.”
GRANDMOTHER Val Hicks (pictured) has been with Nissan since the start.
The 61-year-old, from Biddick, Washington, works as an admin officer.
“It has been absolutely wonderful,” she said. “I have done the same job from day one and I love it.
“The thing that has made it more enjoyable is the people I work with.
“There are some fantastic members of staff. You are treated like one of the family.”
Mrs Hicks added: “I remember when they cut the first sod on the ground here,” she said.
“It’s hard to believe how much it has developed.”