Maggie, Micras, Brexit and Blair - a history of Nissan in Sunderland

As new fears emerge for jobs at Sunderland’s Nissan plant, here’s a look back at the highs – and lows – of more than 30 years on Wearside.

Wednesday, 24th July 2019, 1:56 pm
Updated Wednesday, 24th July 2019, 5:09 pm

Here is a timeline of Nissan's 30+ years in Sunderland:

February 1984: Nissan signs an agreement with the UK government to build a car plant in the UK. The following month, the former Usworth Airfield site in Sunderland is chosen.

July 1984: A ground breaking ceremony takes place, and work starts in November 1984.

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Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher opens the Sunderland plant

July 1986: The first Nissan Bluebird rolls off the production line at the plant, which employs 470 staff.

September 1986: Official opening by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Nissan president Yutaka Kumet.

May 1990: Phase two completed. Bluebird retired. Primera enters production.

August 1992: Production of the Micra sees the plant making two models simultaneously for the first time.

Tony Blair visits the plant

January 1995: One millionth car produced.

January 2000: Production of Almera begins.

December 2003: Sunderland to produce new convertible Micra C+C.

June 2005: Four millionth car built.

Prime Minister David Cameron gives a speech during a visit to the Nissan Plant

September 2005: Production of Micra C+C begins.

January 2006: Launch of the Tone (later renamed the Note).

March 2006: Prime Minister Tony Blair visits the plant as the three-millionth car rolls off the production line for export.

September 2006: Unveiling of the Qashqai production model.

Workers celebrate as the Micra is named Car of the Year 1992

April 5 2008: New version of 4x4 Qashqai to be built at the plant.

June 3, 2008: Plant is chosen to build a new car to replace the Micra.

June 29, 2008: Eight hundred jobs created as the Sunderland plant goes 24-7.

October 8, 2008: The global financial crisis hits. The plant announces it is laying off some of the staff hired on short-term contracts when it made the move to three-shift working.

October 20 2008: Nissan announces a freeze in production of the Micra and Note at the Sunderland plant, stopping line two for two weeks from the end of the month.

October 31, 2008: Nissan announces a huge fall in global profits.

Nissan celebrates the one millionth Qashqai to roll off the production line at its Washington plant

December 1, 2008: Nissan extends its cutback in production of the Note and Micra at the Sunderland plant, continuing four-day working on line two which makes the models.

December 9 2008: Workers sent home and production frozen for the rest of the week.

December 11 2008: Nissan bosses say they will look at staffing levels.

December 18 2008: Workers finish for Christmas five days earlier than expected.

January 5 2009: Workers return to the production line after Christmas break.

January 8 2009: Announcement that 1,200 jobs being axed.

April 2009: Sunderland Plant receives Queen’s Award for Export.

April 2010: Nissan breaks ground for its lithium-ion battery production plant next to its existing operations in Sunderland. The batteries will be used for Nissan and Renault electric vehicles.

August 2010: Nissan’s new crossover, the Juke, begins in Sunderland, replacing the Micra.

March 2011: It is announced the Sunderland plant will produce the new electric vehicle, the LEAF.

July 2011: 200 more jobs are created at the Sunderland plant to build batteries for electric vehicles.

December 2012: Business Secretary Vince Cable visits the Sunderland plant as Nissan announces it is investing £250million in the operations to build the new Infiniti model.

September 2013: Production begins on the second-generation Note and Qashqai. Sunderland is named as the first Infiniti production site in Europe, marking a £250million investment.

January 2014: New Qashqai production begins. It goes on to be named What Car? Car of the Year

October 2014: The Nissan Skills Foundation is launched to increase engagement in schools and promote careers in engineering and manufacturing.

November 2014: The two millionth Nissan Qashqai rolls off the production line – a milestone reached faster than for any other model in the history of the UK car industry.

January 2015: Prince Charles visits Nissan Sunderland, touring the plant and meeting students involved in the Skills Foundation

June 2015: Nissan announces £37million investment in the form of extension work for a new extra large press line at the Wearside site.

December 2015: The Infiniti Q30 model begins production at the new 25,000 sqm facility.

January 2016: Nissan safeguards 300 jobs in Sunderland, announcing plans to build new generation of electric vehicle batteries at the plant with an extra £26.5million invested into its operations.

March 2016: A further £22million is invested to cope with the demand for the Qashqai, with a second production working on the model.

February 2016: Nissan chairman and chief executive Carlos Ghosn enters the Brexit debate and says the firm believes it made ‘the most sense for jobs, trade and costs’ to stay in the EU - but says it remains committed to investments in the UK

June 1 2016: Nissan unveils a new 4.75MW solar power array, with 19,000 photo-voltaic panels as the company aims for a future with zero emissions.

June 24 2016: The day after the Brexit vote, Nissan declines to comment on the future of its Sunderland plant.

October 2016: Nissan announces it will build two new models, the new Qashqai and the X-Trail SUV, in Sunderland after “support and assurances” from the Government - alleviating fears over the future of the Wearside operations.

August 2017: Nissan bosses vow to work with the Government to secure a long-term future for the Sunderland plant after Brexit.

January 2017: Mr Ghosn says UK investment will be “re-evaluated” if Theresa May delivers a poor Brexit deal.

February 2017: Nissan senior vice-president Colin Lawther tells the House of Commons International Trade Committee the company will “constantly review” its decision to build two new models on Wearside in the light of any changes to its ability to trade with the remaining EU.

February 2018: Nissan joins Honda, Toyota and other Japanese business leaders in talks with Prime Minister Theresa May and Chancellor Phil Hammond over the future of Japanese companies in the UK.

After the talks, Japanese ambassador Koji Tsuruoka warns Theresa May that his country’s firms will quit the UK if a botched Brexit makes it impossible for them to stay.

April 2018: Nissan confirms it is in discussions with employees over reducing permanent salaries and worker numbers after a dip in the sales of new diesel cars.

June 26 2018: The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) has blames a lack of certainty over the UK's future trading relationship with Europe for a 50% fall in investment in the British motor industry.

June 27 2018: Carlos Ghosn is quoted by the BBC as saying Nissan is putting its investment plans in the UK on hold until there is more certainty over Brexit as the company is “in the dark”.

October 2018: Outgoing Mercedes-Benz chief executive Dieter Zetsche reveals he had begun talks with Nissan about building cars at Sunderland plant before the Brexit referendum, but dropped the idea after the Leave vote.

November 2018: Nissan says it will dismiss Carlos Ghosn after finding he under-reported his income 'over many years', among other allegations of misconduct.

January 2019: Carlos Ghosn is charged with breach of trust.

February 2019: Nissan abandons plans to build the new X-Trail in Sunderland.

March 2019: The firm announces it is to cease production of Infiniti models at the plant within months.

June 2019: The plant produces its 10 millionth vehicle.

July 2019: Speculation mounts that the company is set to shed 10,000 jobs worldwide.

The Millionth Juke is built at Nissan's Sunderland Plant
Nisan announced earlier this year it was ceasing Infiniti production in Sunderland
The 10 millionth car rolls off the production line