THE president of the North East Chamber of Commerce (NECC) has paid tribute to the Nissan motor company on the 25th anniversary of production in the North-East.
John Mowbray 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.
“Nissan has both reinforced and built upon the region’s long-standing reputation as a centre of global excellence for manufacturing.
“The development of low carbon vehicles is fledgling but will become increasingly important over the coming years. Nissan is playing a pivotal role in the North-east’s expertise in this exciting new sector which has so much potential to kick our economy on to the next level.”
Nissan Sunderland Plant has rewritten the record books for UK car production, with volumes increasing from 5,139 Bluebirds in that first year to 423,262 cars in 2010 – which was the first time ever that a UK car plant had made more than 400,000 vehicles in one year.
Nissan has now manufactured more than 6.2 million vehicles and 12 different models at Sunderland, including Bluebird, Primera, Micra, Almera, Note, Qashqai and Juke.
“I celebrate this milestone with the Nissan Sunderland Plant and commend the significant achievements of the plant and its employees over the past 25 years,” said Carlos Ghosn, chairman and chief executive officer of Nissan Motor Co.
“As the UK’s largest car plant, biggest car exporter, and soon battery plant - with battery production for the Nissan LEAF planned for next year - Sunderland is a beacon of Nissan’s exemplary leadership in manufacture, management and technology, which define a global car company in the 21st century.”
Prime Minister David Cameron said: “I welcome Nissan’s continued investment in the UK, and the important role Nissan is playing in helping to rebalance our economy.
“With the design, development and manufacture of their new generation Qashqai all taking place in the UK, Nissan has restated its confidence in the skills of its British workforce and in the UK’s manufacturing sector.”
To mark the milestone, a ceremony was held at the plant in which a time capsule was buried on the site – recreating the ceremony held when construction of the plant began. The new time capsule updates the artefacts placed inside the original, including a model Qashqai, a telephone directory, newspapers from today, a Sunderland shirt and items donated by regional partners such as the NECC.
Of the 430 people who were employed at the plant on September 8, 1986, 133 remain employed at Sunderland plant, and the ceremony last week was performed by two of those original members of staff: Nissan’s senior vice president for manufacturing in Europe, Trevor Mann, and Nissan’s vice president for manufacturing in the UK, Kevin Fitzpatrick.
This 25th anniversary year has been a special one for Nissan in the UK. As well as celebrating a record year for production, staff produced their six millionth car in January, shortly before the first shipment of the 100% electric Nissan LEAF arrived in the UK in February. In June Mr Ghosn visited the UK to announce that the next generation of the Nissan Qashqai would be designed, engineered and manufactured in the UK, just as the Qashqai became the fastest UK-made car to reach one million units.
Staff are now gearing up for production starting at the company’s new lithium-ion battery plant in the New Year, ahead of Nissan LEAF production beginning at Sunderland in 2013. Production of the new Qashqai will take Nissan’s total investment in its UK manufacturing base to £3.3bn.