Nissan has presented a unique gift to Sunderland as a thank you for its workforce being honoured with the Freedom of the City.
The entire 7,000-strong workforce at the Sunderland Nissan plant was given the honour in September 2017 to recognise the tremendous role they play in the city.
Now Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK (NMUK) has presented the city with a unique first generation half-LEAF cross-section car to Sunderland City Council as symbol of its gratitude.
Councillor Harry Trueman, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “We’re delighted to accept this fascinating half-LEAF cross-section model. It reflects the innovation, investment and phenomenal success that hallmarks the Nissan NMUK Sunderland plant.
“Skills development is a priority for Nissan and for us, and this fascinating half-LEAF is a great way to help inspire pupils to become future engineers, and increase understanding of current students at our university.
"We hope that when it moves to the museum as many people as possible see for themselves the inner workings of a pioneering car. It shows that in 2018, the city with a proud history of innovation continues to produce ground-breaking technology.”
The fully working half-LEAF cross-section model reveals the innovative technology of the world’s first and best-selling 100% zero emissions electric car which is produced at the Nissan Sunderland plant.
The council plans to eventually display the car in the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens alongside the first Nissan Bluebird off the production line (Job 1), already on display.
Before it goes to the museum, the half-LEAF cross-section will be located at AMAP, the Institute for Automotive and Manufacturing Advanced Practice at the University of Sunderland, to benefit automotive and engineering students who will be able to study the inner workings of the model in detail.
The Nissan LEAF has been manufactured at Sunderland since 2013 for European markets, with the new second generation now rolling off the production line. The new Nissan LEAF is Europe’s fastest-selling electric vehicle with sales above 19,000.
Nissan’s Sunderland plant celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2016. Along with the LEAF, the factory also manufactures the Qashqai, Juke and Infinity brand Q30 and QX30 models.
Kevin Fitzpatrick, Nissan Europe divisional vice president for manufacturing, said: “Building the Nissan LEAF and being awarded the Freedom of the City are two significant moments in the plant’s history.
“So when we were looking for a gesture to say thank you to the city council and the people of Sunderland for the support they have given us over the past 30 years, it made perfect sense to combine the two.”
The council recognised the role of Nissan’s skilled and flexible workforce in establishing one of the largest and most successful plants in the history of UK car production by awarding the Freedom of the City on its 7,000 employees.
The Nissan factory supports more than 40,000 supply chain jobs and has produced almost nine million cars since it opened in 1986, with an impressive track record of attracting new models to Sunderland.
The half-LEAF cross-section was handed over to the City Council at AMAP’s Industry centre, University of Sunderland.
Roger O’Brien, director of AMAP, said: “We’re excited to be able to house the half-LEAF cross-section at AMAP until it moves to the museum.
"Giving students real-world experience is central to our approach and this tremendous asset will give our Engineering students the rare chance to explore in detail the revolutionary engineering technology that goes into the all-electric car.”
Nissan’s success has cemented Sunderland’s position as a global automotive hub. The International Advanced Manufacturing Park (IAMP), located close to Nissan, will bring an important new dimension to the city if newly-submitted plans for phase one are passed, meaning that construction could begin later this year.
IAMP is expected to create over 7,000 jobs and bring in more than £400m of private sector investment. It covers 150 acres and comprises 1.69 million sq ft of industrial space. The joint venture between Sunderland City Council and South Tyneside Council will provide a world-class environment for the automotive supply chain and related advanced manufacturers.
Councillor Trueman said: “With the industries, high quality jobs and investment the IAMP will attract, it will be a game-changer for our current and future workforce. The IAMP is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform not only the Sunderland and South Tyneside economies, but the economic health of the North East and UK.
“The strong relationship the city council shares with Nissan means that future generations will benefit from the new skills, training and resources that will come about from our combined commitment. This half-LEAF model is a great example of how working together boosts the city, and we thank Nissan for the donation.”