Nissan built the first car in Sunderland in 1986, a Nissan Bluebird, and now celebrates its 11 millionth car – a Nissan Qashqai E-Power.
Back in the 1970s, when British Leyland was busy screwing just about everything up with poor quality, many poor cars and many, many strikes, Datsun (as Nissan was then known) made huge gains in sales in the UK, from just 6,000 a year in 1971 to 100,000 at the end of the decade, thanks to good build quality and very competitive pricing.
With that volume of sales in the UK, the logical thing for Nissan was UK production, and in 1984 it signed an agreement to build a Plant in Sunderland, an area with manufacturing skills but declining job opportunities as mining and shipbuilding declined.
Government incentives helped the deal, the land for the plant being offered at agricultural prices and an agreement for a single union workforce all sweetening the pot.
Construction of the plant was finished ahead of schedule, and in 1986 the first car, a Nissan Bluebird, rolled out of Sunderland and, within a year, all Bluebirds sold in the UK came from Sunderland.
Since then, Nissan has built not just the Bluebird but also the Primera, Micra, Almera and Note – as well as the Infiniti QX30 and Q30 – and currently builds the Qashqai, Juke and Leaf, now producing a car in just 8.5 hours compared to the Bluebird’s 22.5 hours and has, on average, built a car every two minutes, 24 hours a day seven days a week since it opened in 1986 and has now built the 11 millionth car – a Nissan Qashqai e-Power.
Now the biggest car producer in the UK, the Sunderland Plant employs some 6,000 and supports 30,000 jobs in the supply chain and continues to grow, with a new EV production planned as well as a 12GWh Gigafactory with partner Envision.
Nissan’s Adam Pennick said:
This milestone reflects the vast experience that our world-class manufacturing team has in delivering the quality cars that our customers love.
We’ve come a long way since production first started with some iconic models on the way. But we’re always looking forward, and our fully electrified range and EV36Zero plan mean we have an exciting and sustainable future ahead.