North East Nissan plant helping the UK back to its 1970s heyday in car manufacturing

Report to be launched in the House of Lords highlights "remarkable" North East plant

Nissan staff with the two millionth Qashqai car produced at the Sunderland plant which has reached it's milestone in less than eight years of making the popular crossover car, quicker than any other make and model in the history of UK car manufacturing
Nissan staff with the two millionth Qashqai car produced at the Sunderland plant which has reached it's milestone in less than eight years of making the popular crossover car, quicker than any other make and model in the history of UK car manufacturing

The success of Nissan in the North East is helping the UK back to the 1970s heyday of its car making economy, a new report today claims.

The report by Prof Garel Rhys of Cardiff University highlights the role of Nissan and Jaguar Land Rover in the UK automotive industry approaching the record set in 1972 when 1.92m vehicles were manufactured.

Those firm’s successes have boosted the UK’s export record and also moved the country’s automotive sector away from its traditional base in the South East to regions like the North East.

Prof Rhys’ report - which comes two days after Nissan set the record for producing the two millionth Qashqai - will be launched at an event in the House of Lords today.

The report claims that the success of Nissan and other firms could have an even greater benefit for regions like the North East if more is done to exploit the potential of the companies’ supply chains.

Prof Rhys said: “Britain has established a new type of sustainable motor industry. To survive the UK plants have become export led par excellence.

“Hence the UK has a new type of motor industry for a traditional car making country. It has a very well spread out market which enjoys risk–spreading economies of scale. No market is dominant, including the home market, which on average takes only 20% or so of output. Consequently the present UK market share held by domestic plants is a sign of strength in this type of industry.

“In comparison to the record production year of 1972 it now consists of new players: Nissan, Toyota, Honda, BMW, VW, and Paccar, Shanghai, Proton, Geely. Daimler-Benz has a toe hold via Aston Martin.

“Only GM, Morgan and Dennis survive from 1972 in vehicle manufacture. In addition the centre of operations of car making and components making has moved to new locations: North East, East Midlands, West of England and Wales. ”

The Nissan plant in Sunderland
The Nissan plant in Sunderland
 

UK car makers produced 1.53m vehicles in 2013 - well short of the 1972 record - with 951,000 of those coming from Nissan and Jaguar Land Rover.

But Prof Rhys’ report estimates the “big two” can increase their production figures to 1.35m by 2017 and says they will be instrumental in seeing the industry reach that target.

Prof Rhys said: “The number of cars made in the company’s Sunderland plant since 2009 has been nothing short of remarkable in the annals of car making in the UK.”

Colin Lawther, Nissan’s senior vice president for manufacturing in the UK, said: “Nissan is very proud to be the UK’s biggest ever car factory, and to be the only plant to surpass 500,000 annual production.

“Since the start of production in 1986, North East England has become an international automotive centre with more than 26,000 people employed at Nissan and in the region’s supply chain.

“These achievements are down to the efforts of the management team and workforce at the plant, and strong support from our partners at Sunderland City Council and the UK Government.”

Prof Rhys’ report was commissioned by MAKE it Sunderland, an initiative led by Sunderland City Council to promote manufacturing and technology on Wearside.

Council leader Paul Watson said: “Nissan is a hugely important part of the Sunderland economy, and as Prof Rhys’ report shows, it is also playing a vital role in the UK’s economic recovery.

“We are immensely proud of the plant’s performance and the commitment and resilience of its staff. We are confident they will step up to the mark and will play a crucial role in helping the UK’s car industry to reach the two million cars a year output goal.”

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