The project will start revving up in 2013 and the first cars will starts rolling off the production line towards the latter part of the year. The new Invitation, which will compete with the likes of the Ford Fiesta and Volkswagon Polo, has an initial run of 100,000 a year. The idea for the concept was unveiled at the Geneva Motor Show this year, and is being hailed as the new 'supermini MPV'.
The Sunderland factory already turns out 480,000 gleaming new motors every year. It opened in 1986 and remains one of the most productive car plants in Europe, producing more cars per man than any other. And with this new bulk order, Sunderland’s crown as the UK’s premier car plant is assured.
Nissan’s investment is creating a veritable hive of industry in the area. Some 1,600 new jobs will be created along the supply chain and the workforce at the existing Nissan factory is getting a 400-strong boost, taking Nissan’s Sunderland headcount to 6,000.
‘This plant has a 20-year heritage in producing successful compact cars stretching back to the first Micra rolling off the line in 1992,’ says Trevor Mann, senior VP of manufacturing for Nissan Europe. ‘It is a testament to the workforce, the ongoing support from the UK government and all of our regional partners and suppliers.’
And the government deserves a fair amount of kudos for the deal. It handed over a £9.3m grant to ensure that Nissan chose Blighty for the home of its new model. It’s another coup for the Coalition, following hot on the heels of announcements from Jaguar Land Rover, Ford, and BMW Mini, all gearing up their UK manufacturing and sticking rupees, dollars, and euros into the British economy. Vince Cable is a happy bunny today...
But while Nissan’s expansion shows that things are looking up for some, electric cars have taken a hit this week. Production of the Chevy Volt, just named European Car of the Year, has ground to a halt due to ‘over-supply’ (that's poor sales in layman's terms). General Motors shut down the manufacturing plant on Friday for five weeks pending further orders.
A turnaround for electric cars isn’t impossible, however, given the astronomical price of petrol. Unleaded petrol hit a record high of 137.3 pence per litre today. Let’s hope the Nissan Invitation has an economical engine, eh?