Around 2,250 jobs are likely to be maintained in the north east of England following an announcement from Nissan that it is to manufacture the all-electric Nissan LEAF at its Sunderland plant.
The company also said that construction of its advanced lithium-ion battery plant, which was announced last year, will begin this April. The facility, which will be located at Sunderland, will have a production capacity of 60,000 units a year and will start manufacturing batteries in 2012 for Nissan and its Alliance partner Renault.
The production of Nissan LEAF and the batteries represents a total investment of more than £420m in the Sunderland plant.
The investment will be supported by a £20.7m Grant for Business Investment (GBI) from the UK government and a proposed finance package from the European Investment Bank of up to €220m (£197.3m).
Work to integrate Nissan LEAF into Sunderland’s manufacturing process will begin in 2012. The car will be launched on the plant’s ’Number 2’ production line alongside the Juke compact crossover car, which enters production in August 2010.
The UK’s business secretary Lord Mandelson said: ‘The automotive sector is of key importance to the UK. It supports R&D, technological innovation, skills and a supply chain that’s a mainstay of the wider manufacturing sector.
‘Today’s news from Nissan, with support from government, shows that by working together we can achieve our aim of making the UK a world leader in ultra-low carbon vehicles.’
Andy Palmer, senior vice-president at Nissan, said: ‘Thanks to the UK’s firm commitment to a low-carbon future in terms of infrastructure, customer incentives and educational programmes, Nissan LEAF will be built at Sunderland, making the UK the third country in the world to produce this revolutionary car.’
Production of Nissan LEAF will begin in Oppama, Japan, later this year followed by Smyrna, Tennessee, US, in 2012. Sunderland will come on line in early 2013 with an initial annual production capacity of about 50,000 units.
The three production sites will support the sales launch of the model, which begins in late 2010 in Japan, the US and selected European markets, ahead of global mass marketing from 2012.
Nissan LEAF at a glance:
World’s first affordable, mass-produced zero-emission car
Five-seater C-segment hatchback
Powered by an 80kW electric motor
Charges to 80 per cent of capacity in less than 30 minutes (rapid charging)
Real-world range: 160km (100 miles – US-LA 4 mode)
Top speed of more than 140kph (90mph)
Produced on all-new dedicated EV platform