Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK) made profits after tax of pounds 18.2m in the year to the end of December, up from pounds 10.4m in 1995, though earnings remained well below the peak of pounds 29.3m in 1992. Nissan, the world's sixth largest vehicle maker, also said its world-wide operations bounced back into the black in the year to March, reporting profits of 166.1bn (pounds 875m), compared with losses of 88.4bn in 1995.
Last year's profits rise in the UK came after pounds 250m of new investment in the Primera, which helped boost production at the Sunderland plant to 231,000 cars in 1996, up from 215,000 the previous year.
"It was a heavy year in terms of expenditure at Sunderland but we still managed to increase profits," said a Nissan spokesman, who added that the company was on course to raise its production this year to 250,000 cars.
The investment also pushed Sunderland to the top of the European productivity league, taking just 10 hours to produce a new Primera, compared with 12.5 hours for the old model. The company is spending a further pounds 70m preparing to produce an estate version of the Primera for the first time outside Japan.