Nissan's Vote of Ncqo Confidence in Quality and Skill of North Workers; as Nissan Invests a Further PS250m in Its Wearside Plant, DAN WARBURTON Talks to a Man Who Was at the Factory When It Opened and Is Now One of the Company's Most Senior Global Figures

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NEW investment of more than PS250m in Nissan's North East plant reaffirms the Japanese car giant's decision to bring its operation to e nearly 30 years ago, the company's ice-president has claimed.

n yesterday revealed it would create 280 the region and a further 720 in comcompanies to manufacture a new luxunder the Infiniti brand.

he first time in nearly a quarter of a that a new car brand has been launched K, and sees Nissan's Wearside operation record output of 500,000 vehicles a global vi Nissan jobs in t ponent c ury car u It is th century t in the UK reach a year. Nissan his caree in Sunde When manager Wearside developm It ope n's vice-president Colin Dodge launched er with Nissan nearly three decades ago erland.

Mr Dodge set up camp as paint shop r in the North East in 1984, Nissan's e operation was in the first phase of ment.

rated on a PS50m capital investment, a 400-strong workforce and was pump-12,000 units each year from the Washactory.

people thought we wouldn't survive," Dodge. "People were cynical. Most said we would be one of those ghts, they said that we had come for the es."

NWearside boasted ing out 1 ington fa "Most said Mr people fly-by-nig incentive Now, Wearside staff, wh - a first f But ye produce Mr Dodg ufacturin sentimen He said East and do with t "The b more than 25 years later, Nissan's e plant is at a record high with 6,400 o last year manufactured 500,000 cars - a or any car company in the UK.

sterday, as Nissan unveiled its plans to the luxury Infiniti car in the North East, ge said the decision to bring the manng to the North East was not based on nt.

d: "I've got great fondness for the North for Sunderland, but it had nothing to this decision. board made this decision and it was based on the last 30 years of track record for the plant.

"I don't think big car companies put cars and plants in places because they like the area.

"It was purely on the record and the quality of the operation in the North East. It's the trust that the Nissan board has in Sunderland."

The latest PS250m capital investment will go towards equipping the factory with the tools to make the luxury Infiniti car, marking the first time a brand has been launched on this scale in the UK for 23 years.

The Infiniti car due to be produced in Sunderland will go on the market to compete with high-end brands including BMW, Audi and Lexus. It is the first time a car has been built on Wearside and sold in the US but the company is adamant that there is no gamble in introducing a new brand to the market.

Mr Dodge said: "We don't gamble - we are a big car company and we don't gamble. We are sure it will work.

"This demonstrates the trust of the board in the plant.

"My understanding is that they made 500,000 units this year, which is 10% of our global market and so it shows the production is pretty important to us.

"It's the quality, cost and other key performance indicators. You can never guarantee things in life, but this is the first time Sunderland is producing cars for the US and that's another milestone."

Because of capacity limitations at Sunderland, securing the new Infiniti will mean that a C-segment hatchback previously announced for the plant in April will be manufactured elsewhere, said the company.

Mr Dodge said: "Infiniti is a very special brand for us.

"We normally only produce these in locations in Japan and places we trust, so it says a lot about Sunderland.

"The Infiniti range started in 87 when the Japanese car companies started producing premium cars, with Toyota making Lexus, and they decided to go to America. …