Nissan unveils new UK-built car

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The Independent Online

The UK car industry was given a major boost today when Japanese giant Nissan unveiled the new Qashqai which will start production in Sunderland in December.

The car, which has optional four-wheel drive and will be on the market for under £15,000, is the latest model to be built at the North East site which has seen more than four million cars roll off the production line since the first Nissan Bluebird was built there 20 years ago.

It will lead to the creation of 200 temporary jobs to add to the current workforce of 4,400 as Nissan looks to produce 100,000 Qashqai cars a year.

Nissan today pledged more than 300 million euro (£200 million) of investment in the project.

Unveiling the new model in Paris, Nissan president and chief executive Carlos Ghosn said: "Qashqai demonstrates our confidence in Sunderland's capacity to make high quality, globally competitive products."

It is a much-needed boost for the British car industry, which is still reeling from thousands of job losses following the collapse of MG Rover last year and ongoing problems at Jaguar, Peugeot and Vauxhall.

Ford is rumoured to be planning to sell Jaguar after years of losses while Peugeot recently closed its Ryton plant and Vauxhall has cut production and jobs at its "Home of the Astra" in Ellesmere Port.

But Japanese manufacturers are still investing heavily in the UK with Nissan, Toyota and Honda expected to account for more than half of British car production this year.

Production at the Nissan plant in Sunderland has soared from just over 5,000 cars in 1986 to a staggering 315,297 last year - or a fifth of total UK production.

With the Qashqai now set to join the Micra, Almera, Primera and Note on the production line in Sunderland, Nissan expects to increase its capacity to 400,000 cars next year.

Mr Goshn said the Qashqai was the first Nissan car to be wholly developed in Europe with every stage of the operation taking place in the UK.

"This is the first major Nissan programme to be led from Europe," he said.

"Starting literally with a clean sheet of paper, this was the first all-new vehicle to come from our design centre in London. And our European technical centre in Cranfield led the development programme.

"Qashqai will also be assembled in the UK at Sunderland where our team has worked hard to earn recognition as one of Europe's most production car plants."

Nissan's Sunderland plant was named the most productive car plant in Europe for seven consecutive years until the report was abandoned in 2003.

It has also been the UK's biggest plant for the last eight years and the UK's biggest car exporter since the new Millennium. Around 80 per cent of production is exported to 45 markets around the world and around 55 per cent of Nissan sales in Europe are made in Sunderland.

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