Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Nissan Hopes Rise for Almera Grant

Newspaper article The Journal (Newcastle, England)

Nissan Hopes Rise for Almera Grant

Article excerpt

A Government grant to help bring production of the new Nissan Almera to Sunderland and safeguard 1,500 jobs has "not been ruled out," it was revealed yesterday.

The news from Industry Minister Jacqui Smith comes as senior executives within the Japanese motor giant begin considering where to build the medium-sized hatchback from 2005.

The replacement model remains at the concept stage, while more than 100,000 current generation Almeras run off the production lines every year.

Nissan's Wearside plant - which employs around 4,800 people - is in a strong position to win the bid, having been named the most productive car plant in Europe for seven years running.

But a government grant to aid production would strengthen the case for Sunderland.

Speaking to The Journal after a tour of the plant yesterday, Mrs Smith said: "Providing grant assistant for Nissan has not been ruled out by any means. We will continue talking to the company. We recognise the importance of Nissan in terms of the contribution to the regional economy.

"We have provided pounds 170m of government support in the past. I am keen that we maintain that dialogue and work to ensure the Nissan remains a success."

The Government awarded Nissan pounds 40m two years ago to help bring production of the new Micra supermini to Sunderland.

More than 1,000 jobs were saved by the move.

The supermini - which went on sale in January this year - was an immediate success, with production almost doubling from 104,000 models last year to 200,000 in the coming 12 months to meet demand across Europe.

Nissan Europe chief, Carlos Ghosn, has previously voiced fears that Britain's position outside the single currency puts the Sunderland factory at the mercy of currency fluctuations.

Mrs Smith said: "I share the company's view that there are economic benefits to being part of the Euro, but we have made it clear that the economic tests must be met. …

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