Nissan's latest model, the QASHQAI, will begin rolling off the production line today at its plant in Sunderland.
QASHQAI is a compact crossover, combining the best attributes of a traditional family hatchback with the option of advanced 4x4 capability.
Around 130,000 will be produced in Sunderland, alongside NOTE, Primera, Micra and Micra C+C, potentially increasing total annual volume to around 400,000 units by the end of 2007 - a plant record.
QASHQAI's arrival rounds off one of Sunderland's busiest periods in its 20-year history with three new model launches within the last 16 months.
Vice President of UK Manufacturing, Trevor Mann, said: "This is a very important day for our plant as QASHQAI will spearhead Nissan's drive for sustained, profitable growth in Europe.
"As such, the Sunderland workforce has been given a great deal of responsibility. But they have earned the right to build this car through their continued hard work and excellent track record in terms of productivity and reliability.
"I would also like to thank both national and local government and regional development agencies for their continued support, as well as the unstinting efforts of all our suppliers."
QASHQAI represents a total investment of €322.8 m and will secure more than 3,000 jobs at the plant and within the regional supply chain. It has also created 200 temporary and 100 trainee posts at the plant.
Around 80% of QASHQAI production will be exported, the majority for sale within Europe. The car will also be shipped to numerous overseas markets such as the Middle East, Australia, South Africa as well as Japan - making it only the second Sunderland-built model to be exported to the Japanese market. The first being the 1996 model Primera.
Furthermore, QASHQAI is the first new model to be built down the plant's recently installed 'Nissan Integrated Manufacturing System'. This is a new, flexible line being adopted at Nissan plants around the world. Its many benefits over a conventional line include a shorter lead time, improved ergonomics, multi-model, random sequence production and increased integration with suppliers.
From today, the car will ramp up to full production volume in just 4 weeks, ensuring dealers across Europe are fully stocked ready for the car's start of sale date at the end of February 2007.
Customers will be able to choose between 3 trim grades and 4 engine options. Two petrol units, a 1.6 and 2.0-litre, will be available in February, as will a 1.5 diesel. An all-new 2.0 diesel engine will join the line up from April next year.
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