It was in 1984 that then Nissan President Takashi Ishihara agreed a deal with HM government to build a car plant in the UK. Choosing Sunderland as the base for the Japanese giants to continue European manufacturing of their models.
And 2014 marks the 30th anniversary since the Washington area was chosen as the location for Nissan’s first European-based car plant.
Sharon Hodgson, Labour MP for Washington and Sunderland West, said:
“I’m immensely proud that Nissan continues to smash records, recently becoming the first UK car plant to produce a million cars in just two years, and build for the future – winning new contracts and training up the next generation of workers.”
Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK was built on the former Usworth Airfield site, and work began in late 1984 in developing the new car factory.
The official opening of the plant took place in 1986, with then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and Nissan President Yutaka Kume unveiling the factory.
Chosen because of the area’s skilled workforce, rail links and government support, Nissan helped industrial growth following a period of decline after the closure of most shipyards and coalmines.
The continued good work of the Sunderland factory has contributed immensely to UK car manufacturing, as well as exports and economic growth.
The plant has gone from strength to strength; in 2011 more than 480,000 vehicles were produced at Sunderland, – the first time any UK car plant made more than 400,000 cars in one year.
Mrs Hodgson believes the factory has been a huge success for the economy, creating thousands of jobs in the supply chain.
“Nissan employs more than 6,000 people directly, but this triples when you take in the supply chain and the jobs that are sustained because all of those people have money to spend in the local economy,” Mrs Hodgson said.
“There’s a lot of other businesses, big and small, which have a role to play in creating jobs and wealth in my constituency and the whole region, but the Nissan factory has undeniably been a major player in that over the last 30 years.”
Dawn Waugh, Press Officer at Sunderland’s Nissan Plant, said:
“As of the end of 2013, we’ve been the biggest car plant in the UK for 16 years. We’ve also been the biggest car exporter in the UK for the last 14 years. 1 in 3 cars made in the UK comes from the Sunderland plant.
“The first full year’s production was 1987, we started making cars in ’86 but it was late on in the year so the first full year’s production was in ’87 and that year we made 28,797 – it was Bluebird cars back in the beginning.
“And we had 1100 staff.”
And Nissan recently announced a huge investment into its Sunderland plant to produce the luxury infinity model. More than 1000 jobs will be created in the UK automotive industry, with production due to begin in 2015.