LONDON Britain announced hundreds of millions of pounds in aid to Ford Motor and Nissan Motor for the development of environmentally friendly technologies as it seeks to become a world leader in ultra low-carbon vehicles.
The government said on Thursday it would provide 360 million pounds worth of loan guarantees from its Automotive Assistance Programme (AAP) to support Ford's development of environmentally friendly technologies across its UK sites.
Earlier, Nissan said it would build its much-awaited Leaf electric car at its Sunderland factory in northeast England, backed by a 20.7 million pound grant from Britain.
Nissan's production of the Leaf cars, as well as its batteries, would help safeguard and create over 550 highly skilled jobs at the plant, the government said.
The government's support for Nissan and Ford follows last week's announcement of a 300 million euro $412 million (269 million pounds) loan guarantee for General Motors' European arm to secure the company's operations in Britain and the rest of Europe.
"The automotive sector is of key importance to the UK. It supports R&D, technological innovation, skills and a supply chain that's a mainstay of the wider manufacturing sector," UK Business Minister Peter Mandelson said in a statement.
Ford's plans to invest 1.5 billion pounds over five years to develop low carbon emission diesel and petrol emissions will protect around 2,800 jobs across its UK sites, the government said.
"As part of the automotive industry, Ford has an important role to play in the UK's aim to be one of the leading manufacturers of low carbon vehicles," Mandelson said in a statement.
(Reporting by Caroline Copley; Editing by Hugh Lawson)