City A.M. Reporter
NISSAN, the Japanese carmaker, said yesterday it will invest £200m in a new factory in the North East to produce batteries for electric cars, which is expected to create 350 new jobs.<br /><br />The UK plant, to be based in Sunderland near Nissan’s Wearside car plant, will be its main site for battery production in Europe.<br /><br />Nissan will also locate another electric battery plant in Portugal. The factories will have an annual capacity of 60,000 units each.<br /><br />Nissan and its French alliance partner, Renault, plan to begin selling electric cars in the US and Japan from next year. It will sell these cars globally from 2012.<br /><br />Observers say Nissan’s existing Wearside base, which employs 4,200 staff, is in line to secure the rights to manufacture electric cars in Europe. A contract of this scale will protect the long-term future of the plant.<br /><br />The government has agreed to support Nissan’s venture, through loans and grants via the £2.3bn Automotive Assistance Programme, although the size of support is unclear.<br /><br />Trevor Mann, the senior vice-president for manufacturing, Europe, at Nissan, said the investment showed the car maker’s “commitment” to zero-emission vehicles.<br /><br />Business secretary Lord Mandelson said: “This is good news not just for the North East, but for the UK.”<br /><br />The news comes only days after Japanese rival Toyota said it would start manufacturing the new Auris hybrid petrol-electric vehicle at its plant in Burnaston, Derbyshire from mid-2010.