Nissan Sunderland Plant is today marking the 25th anniversary of its official opening on September 8, 1986. Lady Thatcher, the then-Prime Minister travelled to the North East to perform the ceremony and to paint the second eye on a traditional Japanese ‘daruma’ doll to confirm the successful opening of the plant. This followed the painting of the first eye by Prince Charles and Princess Diana during a visit to Nissan’s Zama Plant in Japan.
In the 25 years since, Nissan Sunderland Plant has rewritten the record books for UK car production, with volumes increasing from 5,139 Bluebirds in that first year to 423,262 cars in 2010 – which was the first time ever that a UK car plant had made more than 400,000 vehicles in one year.
Nissan has now manufactured more than 6.2 million vehicles and 12 different models at Sunderland, including Bluebird, Primera, Micra, Almera, Note, Qashqai and Juke. ‘I celebrate this milestone with the Nissan Sunderland Plant and commend the significant achievements of the plant and its employees over the past 25 years,’ said Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Nissan Motor Co.
‘As the UK’s largest car plant, biggest car exporter, and soon battery plant – with battery production for the Nissan LEAF planned for next year – Sunderland is a beacon of Nissan’s exemplary leadership in manufacture, management and technology, which define a global car company in the 21st century.’
To mark this milestone, a ceremony will be held at the plant in Washington in which a time capsule will be buried on the site – recreating the ceremony held when construction of the plant began. The new time capsule updates the artefacts placed inside the original, including a model Qashqai, a telephone directory, newspapers from today, a Sunderland AFC shirt and items donated by regional partners such as the North East Chamber of Commerce, the CBI, Sunderland Council and Gateshead College.
Of the 430 people who were employed at the plant on September 8, 1986, 133 remain employed at Sunderland Plant, and today’s ceremony will be performed by two of those original members of staff: Nissan’s Senior Vice President for Manufacturing in Europe, Trevor Mann, and Nissan’s Vice President for Manufacturing in the UK, Kevin Fitzpatrick.
This 25th anniversary year has been a special one for Nissan in the UK. As well as celebrating a record year for production, staff produced their six millionth car in January, shortly before the first shipment of the 100% electric Nissan LEAF arrived in the UK in February. In June Nissan’s Chief Executive Carlos Ghosn visited the UK to announce that the next generation of the Nissan Qashqai would be designed, engineered and manufactured in the UK, just as the Qashqai became the fastest UK-made car to reach one million units.
Staff are now gearing up for production starting at the company’s new lithium-ion battery plant in the New Year, ahead of Nissan LEAF production beginning at Sunderland in 2013. Production of the new Qashqai will take Nissan’s total investment in its UK manufacturing base to £3.3 billion.