Nissan is to recruit 800 additional staff and implement a third production shift at its manufacturing plant in Sunderland in response to a record production year and continuing high demand for the award-winning Qashqai.
Since its European launch in March 2007, sales of the popular crossover car have reached 130,000 units and, as a result, last June Nissan boosted production at Sunderland by 20% to help meet demand.
This contributed to the plant achieving a record annual production volume of 353,000 units of Qashqai, Note, Micra and Micra C+C in 2007, surpassing its previous volume record of 332,000 set in 2003.
Now with orders still above forecast and a customer order bank of 60,000 units, Sunderland plant has launched one of its largest ever recruitment campaigns.
By December 2008, 800 additional manufacturing staff will be recruited. Of these, 400 will be permanent positions, with the remainder temporary contracts.
In addition, all of the Sunderland plant’s current temporary manufacturing staff will be offered permanent positions with the company on a rolling basis throughout the year, subject to performance and sustained volume. These measures will allow Sunderland to implement a third ‘night-time’ shift on the line responsible for Qashqai production.
Trevor Mann, Senior Vice President for Manufacturing & Supply Chain Management, Nissan Europe, said: “Currently on two shifts, we can produce 200,000 Qashqais per year. However, the car is proving so popular we now need to significantly increase our volume.
“Ultimately, how many we produce will be determined by the market, but we have identified the need for a third shift. This is a tremendously positive move by Nissan and represents a great vote of confidence both in the success of Qashqai, and in the Sunderland workforce who achieved a record production year in 2007.
“Today, this level of recruitment in the Western European car manufacturing sector is rare, and reflects the ongoing commitment Nissan has in its UK operation.”
In addition to recruitment directly at the plant, it is estimated that more than 400 new posts will be created throughout Nissan’s local supply base to support the third shift.
Trevor Mann added: “Qashqai sits between the traditional hatchback and SUV, and therefore offers drivers something genuinely unique. I believe this is why it continues to outperform sales targets across all our major European markets.
“Sunderland continues to work extremely hard to deliver customers’ cars as quickly as possible, but Qashqai’s popularity is now at a stage that a third shift has become a viable and sensible measure to significantly boost production for the European market.”
Business Minister Shriti Vadera said: “Nissan’s increase in production and the creation of more than 800 new jobs is good news for the North East, the economy and British manufacturing.
“The success of the British designed QASHQAI and record production at the Sunderland plant last year shows that the UK remains a competitive location for the automotive industry.
“Across the UK, car production grew by 6% in 2007 and we are now making nearly twice as many cars as 25 years ago.”
The Society of Motor Manufacturers & Traders (SMMT) Chief Executive, Paul Everitt, commented: “The Qashqai, designed, developed and manufactured here in the UK, is winning business around the world. The Nissan team has done a fantastic job and their success demonstrates the important role of automotive manufacturing to the regional and national economy.”
Bob Symonds, leader of Sunderland City Council added: “This is fantastic news for the city and the region. Congratulations to the management team and the workforce for once again keeping the Nissan plant in the premier league of car production.”
The Qashqai was designed at Nissan Design Europe, situated in Paddington, London, while technical development was undertaken at its technical centre in Cranfield, England.
In May last year, the car was awarded the maximum five-star rating for adult occupant protection from the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP), with the highest ever recorded score for any vehicle.