Nissan's new £37million press is up and running.
The massive new press was officially unveiled at a ceremony this morning.
Plant boss Kevin Fitzpatrick added his signature to those of the team behind the project on the first panel to be produced.
"The new press is a fantastic piece of cutting edge technology which sets up the next generation of production at Nissan Sunderland Plant," he said.
"The quality of the build and the efficiency of the installation are a real credit to the dedication, talent and sheer hard work of our team at the plant."
The project has taken just over 18 months to complete, since ground was broken mid-way through 2015.
Once at full capacity, it will be capable of stamping 2.5 million panels a year with a force in excess of 5,200 tonnes.
Today's ceremony also celebrated the milestone of nine million cars built at the plant since production began in 1986.
“Reaching nine million cars is also a tremendous achievement for the plant," said Kevin.
"The vehicles we make have come a long way from the first Nissan Bluebird to roll off the line. And it’s not just the quantity - it’s the quality of craftsmanship that goes into our innovative and exciting cars that will keep pushing us towards new production records.”
More than 10 metres in height, with foundations deeper than 6.5m, the giant facility will press body sides and other panels for vehicles built in Sunderland, including the leading crossovers Qashqai and Juke, the Nissan LEAF, the world’s best-selling electric vehicle, and the two Infiniti models, Q30 and QX30.
The new press line and panel storage area required a building extension totalling 6,780m², taking the total built up space on site above 362,000m², the equivalent of more than 50 football pitches.
The new XL press, the first of its type in the Renault-Nissan Alliance, is the biggest at Sunderland and joins the existing seven press lines.
The UK's Brexit vote has cast doubt over the long-term future of the the plant, but Nissan announced last year that Sunderland is to build two new models - a third version of the Qashqai and a new X-Trial.
Kevin believes the best way to secure the plant's future is to maintain the high standards which have become its trademark: "As far as the plant is concerned, it is business as usual," he said.
"We have been allocated the cars and we are working on them.
"Let's get on with it."
In addition to the company’s £3billion annual contribution to the British economy through suppliers, services and wages, the new press forms part of a£650million ongoing investment in new facilities and future models in Sunderland which has taken the total capital investment in the plant since it opened beyond £4billion.