Automotiove giant Lear Corporation is creating more than 100 new jobs as part of plans to double the size of one of its Wearside factories.
The US firm is investing several million pounds into extending its plant on Sunderland City Council’s Rainton Bridge Industrial Estate by a further 3,500sqm – expansion which will allow it to support the rapid growth of its seating foam business.
A ground-breaking ceremony for the extensive development takes place on Wearside today, and the corporation’s president of Europe and Africa, Gideon Jewel, has flown in from his European headquarters especially for the event, which he will carry out alongside Sunderland City Council leader, coun Paul Watson.
Mr Jewel said: “We worked closely with Sunderland City Council to bring Lear to the city in 2011 and they have strongly supported the extension of the plant.’’
When the factory was first opened in 2011 it was Lear’s first UK foam manufacturing facility for car seats. Combined with its neighbouring seat assembly plant the firm now has a headcount of 420 people, but at least 100 more are planned to be created over the next three years as the factory ramps up production to meet its existing contracts with Nissan as well as new business for Jaguar Landrover. Lear Sunderland’s new foam business will be supplied to its Lear sister assembly plants located in the Midlands, adding foam production into Sunderland for Jaguar Landrover models.
The Sunderland plant currently supplies foam seating to Nissan for Qashqai models manufactured at Washington. Once the extension is completed, Lear’s capacity will increase by over 300,000 car seats per year, taking its total capacity to over 600,000 per year. The first portion of work will be carried out using current equipment, but production will step up once the extension is finished next year, when the firm will also be able to start creating new jobs.
As one of the world’s biggest automotive part makers Lear, which has annual turnover of $16.2bn (£10.05bn), has 221 manufacturing sites in 36 countries, employing 122,000 people worldwide, and its seating and electrical parts are found in more than 300 types of vehicle, made by virtually every car manufacturer around the globe.
Mr Jewel said: “The Sunderland workforce have a track record of productivity and efficiency and this has been an integral part of the decision to invest further in Sunderland.”
Lear Corporation Sunderland plant manager, Jim Casey, said: “This is an exciting time for the Sunderland workforce and Lear’s decision to make this happen here is testament to the capability of our employees, our networks and strong links to the city and its university.”
Coun Paul Watson added: “This extension and new business is fantastic news for Lear, the region and employment. We have a vibrant automotive supply industry centred on Sunderland and Lear’s decision to extend its Rainton Bridge plant is proof the sector is going from strength to strength.
“The City Council spent 18 months working with Lear to bring the company to the North East back in 2011, and we’re delighted they are confirming their strong commitment to Sunderland with this new investment and job creation.”