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Sunderland car maker begins 25,000sq metre factory extension for Infiniti work
THE biggest car factory in UK automotive history is about to get even bigger after work started on an extension to build a new luxury model.
Bosses from Nissan and its sister brand Infiniti were in Sunderland yesterday to perform a groundbreaking ceremony on a 25,000 sq metre extension to the Japanese firm's record-breaking car plant.
The new facilities, which open in 2015, will house a body shop and assembly line for the Infiniti Q30 hatchback, that Nissan hopes can compete with the likes of the Audi A3 and Mercedes Benz CLA Class.
Infiniti will become the first new car brand to be manufactured in the UK on this scale for 23 years.
The expansion will create 280 jobs at the plant and about 750 jobs at the firm’s suppliers, Nissan said.
The company’s design centre in London and its technical centre in Cranfield will also be involved in the Q30’s development.
To start the building project Nissan executive vice president Trevor Mann, and Fintan Knight, vice president for Infiniti Europe, Middle-East and Africa used a specialist digger provided by construction firm Sir Robert McAlpine, which was also involved in building the Sunderland Plant in 1984.
“This offers a huge opportunity for our existing local suppliers and for new suppliers to come on board and help build the Infiniti,” said Mr Mann, who admitted that following the launch in March of the Leaf electric hatchback, Nissan was taking another step into uncharted territory.
“It’s true that we are not going with a safe bet,” he told The Northern Echo.
“But in another way we are because the people here; the management team and all of the staff have always delivered on every project.
“Going into new technology has an element of risk but a lot of that risk is mitigated by the experience and trustworthiness of the people associated with the plant.
“Nissan Sunderland has risen to every challenge,” said Mr Mann, who also confirmed that the plant was on target to set a new annual production record which would exceed the 510,000 vehicles made in 2012.
Mr Knight, who joined Infiniti from Italian sports car manufacturer Lamborghini, said the plant would eventually be capable of making 60,000 Q30s a year but he declined to reveal how much the cars will cost when they appear on forecourts in two years.
Industry experts predict that basic models will retail for about £35,000.
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