CAR maker Nissan has beaten both the economic downturn and a string of global national disasters to achieve record sales.
The Japanese giant, which employs 5,462 people at its Sunderland plant said that worldwide sales for its Renault-Nissan Alliance partnership rose by 10.3% to break through the eight million vehicle barrier for the first time.
The Alliance, which was set up as a strategic partnership in 1999 and has included Russia’s AvtoVAZ Lada since Renault took a 25% stake in 2008, now has a 10.7% share of the global car market.
The percentage increased from 10.3% in 2010, fuelled by strong sales in the US and emerging markets and marks the third consecutive year of growth for the group.
Renault-Nissan Alliance CEO Carlos Ghosn said: “The Alliance capitalised on the resurgence of the US economy and gained significant market share in the regions that will drive growth in the 21st Century.
“Double-digit sales growth is solid progress – particularly during a year in which we faced Japan’s earthquake and tsunami, the abnormal strength of the yen, and financial turmoil in Europe.”
A total of 4.67 million Nissan branded vehicles were sold in 2011, a 14.4% rise on 2010. The biggest market was China, where sales jumped by nearly 22% to 1,247,738 vehicles.
It also reported record sales of 695,703 in Europe, a 25.4% year-on-year increase largely due to demand for the Sunderland-built Qashqai and Juke models.
The North East plant, which again smashed its previous production records last year, built a total of 244,298 Qashqais, 56,979 Qashqai+2 models, 132,606 Jukes and 46,602 Note models in 2011.
It was the first time the Qashqai and Qashqai+2 have been put into 24-hour production and also the first full year of Juke production at Sunderland.
The company is aiming to become the biggest Asian car maker, by volume in Europe by 2016. Nissan’s biggest single country gains were in the US, Brazil and Mexico. Nissan is due to open its third plant in Mexico next year.
There was also positive news on sales of Nissan’s flagship Leaf electric car, which will be manufactured in Sunderland from next year. The North East factory will also this year become the first Nissan plant outside Japan to produce batteries for its electric cars.
The Leaf is now the world’s best ever selling electric vehicle, shifting 22,000 in 2011. Since its launch in December 2010, it has been showered with accolades including the World Car of the Year, Japan Car of the Year and European Car of the Year.
The model has also introduced the brand to new owners in the US, where 80% of Leaf owners had never owned a Nissan car before.