August 20, 2013 / 2:31 PM / 7 years ago

Nissan seeks to extend Sunderland car plant, Britain's biggest

LONDON (Reuters) - Japan’s Nissan Motor Co has applied for permission to extend its factory at Sunderland in north-east England, already Britain’s largest car making plant, where it plans to produce its premium brand Infiniti from 2015.

A Nissan technician prepares a Qashqai car at the company's plant in Sunderland, northern England November 9, 2011. REUTERS/Nigel Roddis

The carmaker has asked Sunderland city council for planning permission to extend the factory by around 25,000 square feet (2,300 square metres), allowing it to enlarge its body and paint shops, as well as trim, chassis and press facilities.

“If approved, these extensions will support the continued growth of Nissan’s UK operations, reflecting the success of models manufactured in the UK including Qashqai, Juke, Note and the 100 percent electric Nissan LEAF,” said a Nissan spokesman.

“The main extensions proposed are to body shop and the trim and chassis building and are required for new production facilities.”

The Sunderland plant, which made its first vehicle in 1986, produces around 500,000 vehicles annually.

Apart from the Infiniti brand, it is due to build new versions of the Qashqai and Note over the next three years.

Once production of the new models kicks off, capacity at the plant will “go beyond 550,000”, the spokesman said.

The site is 500 acres (2 square km) in size of which 75 acres have been developed including 350,000 square metres of production space.

The Infiniti vehicles are now mostly built in Japan and Nissan said in May that due to a strong yen, they had contributed less than 1 percent of operating profit in the past two years. Nissan now plans to make the brand at its Xiangyang plant in China from next year and Sunderland from 2015.

Some 6,000 staff are employed at the plant, with a further 23,000 jobs supported by its UK supply chain, Nissan said.

British auto industry body the SMMT has rated the Sunderland plant as the biggest UK car factory for 14 years running, and the biggest UK car exporter for the last 13 years.

Reporting by Rhys Jones; Editing by Anthony Barker

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