Nissan model to safeguard 1,200 jobs at Sunderland

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Nissan unveiled the new model to be built at its Sunderland plant yesterday, pledging that the expansion in production would safeguard or create 1,200 jobs.

The Qashqai - a cross between a family hatchback and a 4x4 - will go into production in December, making it the fifth car to be built at the North-east plant.

Nissan expects to produce 130,000 of the new cars a year, increasing Sunderland's output to about 400,000.

Unveiling the car in Paris, Nissan's chief executive Carlos Ghosn said the Qashqai demonstrated the Japanese company's confidence in the Sunderland plant which began production 20 years ago.

The Qashqai is the first Nissan model to be developed wholly in Europe. It is the first all-new vehicle to come out of the company's design centre in London.

The decision to build the Qashqai in Sunderland, backed by €300m (£204m) of new investment, was announced in February last year after the Government agreed to give £5m in grant aid towards the project. Sunderland beat off competition from rival car plants in France, where Nissan has a controlling shareholding in Renault.

The launch of the Qashqai came as the UK new-car market continued to go into reverse. Registrations last month were down 6 per cent on August 2005 at 77,961.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders also cautioned that September sales may disappoint, despite the number plate change this month with an estimated 395,000 new cars expected to be bought. Sales for the first eight months of the year are down 4.3 per cent.