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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 September 2006, 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK
Nissan unveils compact 4x4 model
Nissan's new Qashqai model
The new car may provide a shot in the arm to the UK motor industry
Japanese carmaker Nissan has unveiled a small 4x4, which will be produced in the UK, at a launch ceremony in Paris.

Nissan plans to build the Qashqai, dubbed a "compact crossover" vehicle, at its plant in Sunderland - a move which could create hundreds of jobs.

As well as supplying the UK market, Nissan plans to export the car to Europe, Japan and the Middle East.

The news should provide a boost to an industry that has been hit by some major setbacks in recent years.

Industry troubles

Last year, MG Rover - the UK's last mass-market carmaker - collapsed leading to the loss of more than 6,000 jobs.

European customers want it all - dynamic design, driving performance and attractive premium interior
Carlos Ghosn, Nissan

The firm was later bought out by China's Nanjing Automotive, who have shifted much of the equipment at the group's Longbridge site to China to begin producing cars for the burgeoning Asian market.

In April this year, French carmaker Peugeot announced it was ending production at its factory in Coventry, dealing the UK carmaking industry a further blow.

Carmakers are battling against a tough environment with increasing competition from Asian firms.

Sales hopes

Nissan chief executive Carlos Ghosn has voiced hopes that the Qashqai will boost Nissan sales.

"European customers want it all - dynamic design, driving performance and attractive premium interior," he said.

QASHQAI FACTS
Designed in Milton Keynes
Manufactured in Sunderland
Safeguards 1,000 jobs
Expected to sell 106,000 models a year
80% of Qashqai buyers expected to be first time Nissan buyers
Goes on sale February 2007, priced at 19,000 euros

"Qashqai delivers all which is why it will lead our sales growth in Europe and the growth in recognition of Nissan as a truly bold, thoughtful and innovative Japanese brand."

Nissan is hoping for a pick-up in Europe after suffering a 15.9% fall in sales between January and July.

Earlier this month, Nissan said it would begin production of the Qashqai in December, with the vehicles expected to go on sale at a starting price of around 19,000 euros (12,898; $24,341) in early February next year.

Jobs boost

The car also represents another landmark as it will be the first entirely European-made Nissan model to be exported to Japan.

Nissan plans to produce 130,000 of the cars a year, increasing the Sunderland plant's annual output to 400,000.

Nissan added it would be taking on 200 temporary manufacturing staff, who will start on three-month contracts, while a further 100 manufacturing staff trainees are being taken on, initially on two-year apprenticeships.

Development and manufacturing of the Qashqai model has been boosted by a 5m grant from the Department of Trade and Industry.

Nissan's operations in Sunderland began in 1984, with the first vehicle coming off the production line in 1986.

The plant, which produces more cars than any other factory in Britain, currently manufactures the Almeira, Primera and Micra models.





SEE ALSO
2,300 jobs go in Peugeot closure
18 Apr 06 |  Coventry/Warwickshire
New Longbridge lease for Nanjing
22 Feb 06 |  Business

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