Like coals to Newcastle, British-built Nissan cars will be exported to Japan today, for the first time in more than a decade.
The fact that models of the Qashqai will be sold in the parent company's home market was a source of pride to its Sunderland workforce. Bosses said that, while Nissan sent cars to more than 45 countries there was "something special" about shipping to Japan.
The plant began life 21 years ago assembling Japanese-built kits into Bluebirds.
It now employs 4,300 people and is Europe's most productive car plant.
The workforce has built more than 20,000 of the smaller SUV (sports utility vehicle) - named after an Iranian nomadic tribe - which will be renamed Dualis for the Japanese market.
The last Wearside-built car to be exported to Japan was the 1996 Primera model.
Neil Calvert, who works on the trim and chassis line, said: "It's been a long time since we shipped our cars back to Japan, so I'm pleased the Qashqai is on its way.
"When our plant began building cars in 1986, we were assembling Bluebirds sent from Japan in kit form.
"So, sending one of our cars back there shows how far we've come."
Trevor Mann, Nissan's vice president of manufacturing in the UK, said: "We export our cars to more than 45 countries around the world, but there is definitely something special about shipping to Japan.
"I'm very confident the Qashqai has what it takes to compete in what is an extremely demanding market. Our workforce has produced an excellent car, and one which I know will appeal strongly to the Japanese motorist."