NISSAN Sunderland - history.
In February 1984, Nissan and the British Government
signed an agreement to build a car plant in the UK. In March 1984, a 799-acre
greenfield site in Sunderland was chosen. As an incentive, the land was offered
to Nissan at agricultural prices; around £1,800 per acre. The North East region
of England had recently undergone a period of industrial decline, with the
closure of most of the shipyards on the Tyne and Wear, and the closure of many
coal mines on the once prosperous Durham coalfield. The high unemployment this
caused meant Nissan had a large, eager, manufacturing-skilled workforce to drawn
upon. The site, once the Sunderland Airfield, was close to large ports on the
Tyne and Tees, within easy driving distance of the international Newcastle
Airport, and close to major trunk roads such as the A1 and A19. The established
company became known as Nissan Motor Manufacturing (UK) Ltd, or NMUK. A ground
breaking ceremony took place in July, and work began on the site in November
1984, by building contractors Sir Robert McAlpine.
One of Nissan's more controversial demands during the talks was that the plant be single-union. This was unprecedented in UK industry. In April 1985, an agreement was reached with the Amalgamated Engineering Union (AEU). Critics argue that this means the plant workforce is weakly represented. Nissan argues that as a result of the single-union agreement, its workforce is much more flexible than at other plants, and it points to the fact that not a single minute has been lost to industrial disputes at the factory.
In December 1985, McAlpine handed over the completed factory building to Nissan for the installation of machinery and factory components. The building phase had been completed ahead of schedule. In July 1986, phase 1 of the plant construction was completed, and the first Bluebird rolled off the production line. That Bluebird is currently shown at the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens. In September 1986, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher officially opened the plant alongside Nissan president Yutaka Kume. At this point, the factory consisted of a Body, Paint and Final Assembly Line. In February 1987, NMUK became the sole supplier of Bluebirds to the UK market. In the same month, work on phase 2 of the factory began. In 1988, Plastics moulding and Engine assembly began. In May 1990, phase 2 of the plant construction was completed. The Bluebird model was retired and the Primera went into production. In 1991, NMUK turned its first profit of £18.4 million, and in April, NMUK was awarded 'British Manufacturer' status by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT).
In August 1992, production of the Micra began as the plant began to produce two models simultaneously. The Micra was an instant success; in August it was voted "European Car of the Year 1993".
The Primera model was revised in 1995, and production began in January 1996.
In January 2000, NMUK becomes a three-model plant for the first time with the production of the Almera.
The Primera underwent another model change, and NMUK won the contract to continue building the car. Production began in December 2001.
NMUK won the contract to build the revised Micra, and production began in November 2002. Production of the first car was witnessed in a ceremony attended by Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. When Ghosn took over the CEO position, he remarked the plant as one of the most productive of all plants, therefore saving it from closure
NMUK won the contract to build the 'Coupe & Cabriolet' (C+C) edition of the Micra in December 2003; production began in late 2005.
In late 2004 NMUK announced it had won the contract to built the Note, a 5-door hatchback. and a short time later in February 2005, Nissan announced the production version of the award-winning, 4x4 crossover Qashqai concept car would be built at NMUK. Note began production in January 2006. This increased production meant that by 2007, NMUK would be producing over 400,000 vehicle per year, up from the 2003 figure of 330,000.
Since the building of NMUK was announced in 1984, over £2.1 billion has been invested in the site.