Car giant Nissan picks Sunderland plant for huge investment with production of revamped Juke crossover beginning, safeguarding thousands of jobs
Britain’s auto industry has received another vote of confidence with Nissan investing £100m into its Sunderland plant to build the next generation of its Juke crossover car.
The decision will guarantee 6,700 jobs at the plant and support a further 27,000 positions in the supply chain.
Paul Willcox, the Japanese car maker’s European chairman, said: “The Juke’s unique design is one of the reasons Nissan is now the undisputed crossover leader, underpinning five consecutive years of sales growth in Europe.
“This announcement gives security to our Sunderland plant beyond 2020, which the team has earned through many years of hard work and their ability to continually raise the bar on quality.”
In March Jaguar Land Rover – owned by India’s Tata Motors – said it would invest £400m in a new engine plant, equipment and the expansion of its design centre in the Midlands.
At the same time, China’s Zhejiang Geely Group revealed plans for a £250m new factory for the London Taxi Company, the maker of the iconic black cab which it rescued from collapse in 2014.
Nissan’s Sunderland plant is widely recognised as one of the most efficient in Europe and has turned out more than 8m vehicles since it opened in 1986. Building the new Juke there will cement Nissan’s position as the UK’s biggest car maker, with more than 500,000 vehicles rolling off its production lines a year, with about one in every three cars built in the UK coming out of its facilities.
Highly automated: The Sunderland plant is recognised as one of the most efficient in the world
The factory already makes Nissan’s Qashqai, Note and electrically-powered Leaf models, with eight out of every 10 cars produced going for export. Later this year Sunderland will start production of the company’s luxury Infiniti Q30 model.
The Juke – termed as a crossover because its design puts it at the point where a normal car and SUV meet – is one of Nissan’s best-selling vehicles in Europe and is priced from £14,000 in Britain.
Almost 9,000 people are employed by Nissan in the UK, with 1,000 at its European technical centre in Bedfordshire and almost 200 at its design base in London. The company said staff at both sites would be “instrumental” in developing the new Juke.
Chancellor George Osborne called the start of production of the new model “fantastic news” that dovetails with the Government’s Northern Powerhouse strategy to re-invigorate the north of England.
Opening the door: The announcement will safeguard more than 34,000 jobs in total
He added: “Our ambitious plan to build the Northern Powerhouse means building on the area’s strengths – including manufacturing – and this announcement is an important sign of Britain being chosen as a global leader in car production.”
Britain was the natural choice for Nissan to begin production of a new model, according to Phil Harrold, automotive partner at PwC.
“The company has an established workforce in the UK and a very effective plant already running here which gives it a platform into Europe,” he said. “With no plants running under capacity it has no reason to go into a central European location unless there is a big driver in the cost of labour, and the Sunderland plant is recognised to be extremely efficient.
“This is reinforces the decision made by the Government of 20 years ago to encourage foreign car manufacturers into the UK and the effects are still paying off 20 years later.”
Mike Hawes, chief executive of auto industry trade body the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said: “This is great news for the North East, and yet another vote of confidence in the UK automotive industry. With productivity improving year-on-year and car manufacturing volumes heading towards all-time records, this is a very exciting time for the sector.”