THE world’s motoring industry have been gathered in Sunderland for the last three days to attend the annual International Automotive Conference, with green issues topping the agenda.
The conference, which has been held in Germany and the US in recent years, attracts the cream of the automotive community, with hundreds of delegates from the industry attending the three-day event this year.
As well as talks by a number of industry leaders, including Mark Phillips, principal designer of Jaguar Cars Advanced Design Studio, and Phil Barker, executive engineer with Lotus Engineering, the delegates were given the chance to tour Nissan’s factories in Sunderland.
Since the arrival of Nissan in 1984, Sunderland has emerged as one of the world’s leading automotive centres with the growth of associated components suppliers such as TRW, Magna Kansei and Valeo.
Nissan’s Sunderland plant, which staffs more than 4,300 workers, is also recognised as the most productive in Europe and has manufactured nearly five million vehicles in its history.
Bob Symonds, leader of Sunderland City Council, said: “It was a real honour for Sunderland to host this event. It’s a real honour for Sunderland to host this event. It’s a prestigious conference and an excellent opportunity for local companies to do business with counterparts around the world.
“Sunderland is recognised international for the strength of its automotive industry and the skills of its workers. This was the chance to showcase that.”
Throughout the three days, much of the debate centred on the future of environmentally friendly automation.
In his presentation Mr Barker said: “Fully electric cars will see the design book re-written as not having to base a car on a heavy engine and transmission system will open up creative possibilities. Bigger interior spaces, flat floors, individuality are all waiting to be explored.”
Delegates also urged manufacturers, specifically those in the Far-East, to speed up production, arguing the common five-year process from design to production was too long. Geoff Smith, Nissan Europe, purchasing general manager, said: “The challenge is to go from computer designs to production in just three years with plants in emerging markets starting to achieve this.”