Car maker Nissan is aiming to expand its Sunderland plant, allaying fears it had plans to curb its UK investment as the EU referendum debate rumbles on.
The Japanese manufacturer has applied for permission to extend its Wearside base, already Britain's largest car-making plant, where it plans to produce its premium brand Infiniti from 2015.
The plans are now with Sunderland City Council and, if granted permission, could see the factory grow by around 25,000 square feet (2,300 square metres).
The move would enlarge its body and paint shops, as well as trim, chassis and press facilities and signals that the company anticipates a long future in Wearside. Earlier this month, Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg told The Journal major Japanese companies have stressed to him they need the UK to be in the EU to guarantee further investment as MPs, led by Stockton’s James Wharton, call for a referendum on the issue.
A Nissan spokesman said yesterday: “If approved, these extensions will support the continued growth of Nissan's UK operations, reflecting the success of models manufactured in the UK including Qashqai, Juke, Note and the 100% electric Nissan LEAF.
“The main extensions proposed are to body shop and the trim and chassis building and are required for new production facilities.”
Sunderland’s Nissan plant produces around 500,000 vehicles every year and, apart from the Infiniti brand, it is due to build new versions of the Qashqai and Note over the next three years.
Once production of the new models begins, it is anticipated capacity will go beyond 550,000.
The site is 500 acres (2 square km) in size of which 75 acres have been developed, including 350,000 square metres of production space.
The Infiniti vehicles are now mostly built in Japan and Nissan said in May that due to a strong yen, they had contributed less than 1% of operating profit in the past two years.
Nissan now plans to make the brand at its Xiangyang plant in China from next year and Sunderland from 2015.
Some 6,000 staff are employed at the plant, with a further 23,000 jobs supported by its UK supply chain, Nissan said.