Nissan is putting Sunderland at the heart of a £13billion push into electric car production – in a major vote of confidence in Britain.
The Japanese car maker announced plans to develop 23 electric models worldwide by 2030. By then, half the cars it sells globally will be electric.
Nissan’s plans to go green are even more ambitious in Europe where 75 per cent of its cars will be electric by 2026.
Chief operating officer Ashwani Gupta stressed the importance of the Sunderland plant for the company’s plans.
‘Europe will take the lead on electrification around the world for Nissan,’ he said. In Europe, Sunderland is the one which will take the lead towards electrification.’
Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng hailed the announcement as a ‘stamp of approval’ for the UK.
He said on Twitter: ‘Delighted to see Nissan are putting the Sunderland plant at the heart of their global effort to accelerate the transition to electric vehicles. A stamp of approval for the UK.’
The vote of confidence in Sunderland comes months after Nissan hailed the ‘opportunity’ offered by Brexit as it unveiled plans for a £1billion electric vehicle hub in the North East.
The company said it would expand its Sunderland site, which employs 6,000, to produce an all-electric vehicle. It is also building a giant ‘gigafactory’ to make car batteries next door.
The partnership with battery maker Envision AESC will bring 909 jobs to the plant and 4,500 to the UK supply chain.
The chronic shortage of microchips holding back the car industry could be prolonged by the Covid Omicron variant, according to the boss of Nissan.
Computer chips are vital to a host of products including vehicles, washing machines and smartphones.
But swathes of factories have been hit by a worldwide shortage. Nissan chief executive Makoto Uchida warned that it was too early to say when deliveries of microchips – and so car production – may return to normal.
Nissan opened its Sunderland plant – where it makes the electric Leaf as well as the Qashqai and Juke models – in 1986.
The firm became embroiled in the Brexit debate as Remain supporters claimed it would quit Britain if the UK voted to leave the European Union.
Instead, Nissan is playing a leading role in the green car revolution in the country.
Boris Johnson confirmed this month that new homes and buildings will be required to install electric vehicle charging points from next year.
This added to announcements that the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans will be banned by 2030 and new heavy goods vehicles in the UK will be zero-emission by 2040.
But Britain’s electric car battery goals suffered a blow this month when chemicals group Johnson Matthey abandoned years of research and development because it said it was too far behind foreign competitors in China and South Korea, who make batteries on a huge scale.
But Britishvolt, is in the early stages of building a factory in the UK. Its £2.6billion plant in Blyth, Northumberland, was approved this summer and will have capacity to churn out batteries for 300,000 cars a year.
Johnson also hailed another ‘huge vote of confidence’ in post-Brexit Britain this summer when Vauxhall’s parent company confirmed plans to make eight electric van models at its Ellesmere Port factory from 2022.