Nissan unveil new car to be built in Sunderland

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ALMOST 300 jobs are to be created after Nissan revealed it is to build a new car on Wearside.

In what is being hailed as a massive vote of confidence in the Wearside workforce, the Japanese giant today announced the Sunderland plant is to build a new model as part of its prestigious Infiniti marque, the first time the brand has been produced in the UK.

The announcement represents an investment of about £250million in the plant and is expected to secure 1,000 jobs at Sunderland and across the UK.

Colin Dodge, Nissan executive vice-president and chief performance officer, said: “This milestone, our first premium product to be manufactured at Sunderland, reconfirms our commitment to UK manufacturing and the ongoing success of the plant, which is moving up the value chain.

“Just as important, the new Infiniti, which will be exported around the world, is being developed with help from our London design centre and our European Technical Centre at Cranfield.”

Business Secretary Vince Cable, who was due at the plant this morning, added: “Today’s news is a strong endorsement of the quality of Britain’s car industry, which is creating jobs, taking on apprentices and contributing to building a stronger economy.

“The auto sector is living up to being one of the great success stories of our industrial strategy and a testimony to government and private sector working together in close partnership.”

The all-new model is expected to enter production in 2015 and will become the first new car brand to be manufactured in the UK on this scale in almost a quarter of a century.

UK production of Infiniti is expected to create an additional 1,000 jobs across the country, including 280 new jobs at the Sunderland plant, which will build up to 60,000 Infiniti models per year.

The announcement comes at the end of a recording-breaking year for Nissan on Wearside.

The plant is set to smash its own record and produce more than half a million cars this year, becoming the first UK manufacturer to achieve the milestone.

The number of people employed at the factory topped 6,000 for the first time during 2012 and it has now shipped more than five million cars worldwide.

Because of capacity limitations at the plant, today’s announcement means the plant will now not build a “C-segment” hatchback announced at Easter. The Infinity development will create a similar number of jobs overall (including more than 50 extra at the plant) and will see almost double the previously announced investment in the factory.

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Nissan’s present to the region

WEARSIDE MP Sharon Hodgson said today’s announcement was the perfect Christmas present.

The Washington and Sunderland West MP, whose constituency covers the Nissan plant, said: “It is fantastic news that Nissan has won yet another order. This announcement will be the icing on the cake of what has been a great year for the plant.

“The whole city is proud of the continued success that the hard work and talent of the local employees has achieved over the last few years and was already excited to see the ground-breaking Leaf roll off the production line next year.

“This fresh announcement will come as an early Christmas present for the workers whose jobs will be secured by this order, and indeed those for whom it will create high-quality jobs and training opportunities over the next few years.”

City council leader Coun Paul Watson said: “This is excellent news for Sunderland and the wider region.

“The automotive industry already employs more than 12,000 people in Sunderland and this is a real vote of confidence in the plant, the city and its workforce.

“Nissan’s Sunderland plant is already recognised as one of the world’s best.

“This caps off a year where we’ve seen almost 2,000 new jobs announced in Sunderland’s automotive sector alone, bringing total investment in the city from international automotive organisations to £355million this year.”

SAFC commercial director Gary Hutchinson, who is chairman of the North East Chamber of Commerce’s Sunderland committee, said: “This announcement is excellent news for the Sunderland plant, the city and the region.

“To secure the production of such a prestigious premium model, with significant additional investment into the plant, is a further step up for the plant and more importantly a further stake for its long-term future.

“Nissan is now such a big part of our regional economy, making up a sizeable portion of the export value, while employing masses of local people.

“Congratulations to the team at Nissan for their work and commitment.”

The chamber’s chief executive James Ramsbotham also heaped praise on the plant’s management and workers.

“It has been an incredible year for Nissan. I would like to congratulate the company and its dedicated workforce on another major coup for the Wearside plant,” he said.

“The unparalleled performance of the workforce, demonstrated by the news that the plant has produced 500,000 units annually for the first time, can only have served to convince Nissan’s senior management that Sunderland is the perfect place to oversee production of the Infiniti and this exciting £250million investment.

“This is great news for the UK automotive sector as it brings 1,000 new jobs to the region’s economy and Nissan’s supply chain. The importance of Nissan to the regional economy cannot be overstated.

“For every person employed by the company, around four are supported in Nissan’s supply chain, with employment at the plant reaching record levels.

“Today’s announcement, coupled with securing the new compact vehicle ‘Invitation’ earlier in the year, the plant launching Nissan’s first lithium-ion battery production facility outside Japan and the Nissan Leaf production secured in 2013, the future looks incredibly exciting for the company.”

Mr Ramsbotham’s opposite number at the north East CBI, Sarah Green, added: “Today’s announcement demonstrates the importance of the Sunderland plant to Nissan globally, as it will become the only place in the world to produce this premium compact car.

“Furthermore, it demonstrates the role Nissan Sunderland plays in the UK automotive industry, as Infiniti will become the first new car brand to be manufactured to scale in the UK in almost a quarter of a century.

“The North East should celebrate the fantastic contribution of Nissan’s local management team and the workforce at the plant in securing another £250million investment for Sunderland and a further 1,000 British manufacturing jobs.”