Tony Blair praised the workforce, and Nissan's latest model, during a visit to the car plant on Wearside.
Tony Blair chatted to Nissan workers on the shop floor
The Prime Minister was helping officially launch the fifth model to be built at Sunderland, the Note.
He was joined on his 40-minute trip by Nissan President and Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn.
After touring the plant and chatting with workers on the shop floor, Mr Blair sat inside the new model and declared it a winner.
Mr Blair said: "We are really lucky we have a company like this in our region which is prepared not just to make the investment but also the commitment to the long term future.
"I remember just over 20 years ago when Nissan first came to the North East there was controversy at the time.
"But the company has settled down to become a major part of the manufacturing infrastructure not just in the region but the country.
"You can see not only the effort that goes in here but also the tremendous enthusiasm that the workforce has for the plant."
Mr Ghosn told the assembled workers that the new Note was "a tangible expression of the company's confidence in Sunderland".
He added: "If Sunderland can succeed with the Note, and I'm confident it will, we will have many other new models for this plant."