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Nissan backs European electric car production with major investment

Nissan SUV
Nissan SUV Copyright Nissan SUV
Copyright Nissan SUV
By Stephen Dobie
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Big money and artificial intelligence are going into a wholly electric range of cars to be produced in the UK.

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Nissan has pledged another £2billion to its British factory with the confirmation of two fully electric SUVs.

While the announcement doesn’t yet herald new jobs at the Sunderland plant, it secures the positions of those already employed in the years to come. The plant is consistently one of Europe’s most productive, with one car rolling off its production lines every two minutes. It produced 325,458 vehicles in the 23/24 fiscal year.

Nissan has confirmed three EV models will make up that number in the years to come, enough to swell the potential investment in both its car factory and EV36Zero battery gigafactory to a £3billion total. Both facilities will be powered by wind and solar farms so that Nissan and its local suppliers, which together employ 30,000 people, can tap into 100 per cent renewable electricity. This is supplementary to its pledge that all brand-new Nissans launched in Europe will be electric-only.

“We cannot continue doing what we were doing in the past,” says Nissan president Makoto Uchida. “We must be competitive with cost and make the right vehicles to deliver good value to the customer. The world is fragmented now with regulations moving at a different pace. How we transform ourselves to adapt to those circumstances is the key to being sustainable. Exciting, electric vehicles are at the heart of our plans to achieve carbon neutrality.

“The EV36Zero project puts our Sunderland plant, Britain’s biggest ever car factory, at the heart of our future vision. It means our UK team will be designing, engineering and manufacturing the vehicles of the future, driving us towards an all-electric future for Nissan in Europe.”

UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has declared Nissan’s investment “a massive vote of confidence in the UK’s automotive industry,” enough to “secure Sunderland’s future as the UK’s Silicon Valley for electric vehicle innovation and manufacturing.” Nissan’s £3bn announcement goes hand-in-hand with confirmation of a new Investment Zone for the wider north-east of England region, while the government has provided £15m in funding to a £30m collaborative project led by Nissan to boost EV development at its technical centre in Bedfordshire. Its Juke and Qashqai models are famously UK designed, engineered and manufactured; a tradition their plug-in replacements look likely to continue.

Artificial Intelligence will provide a helping hand, too. “AI allows me to pick up a pencil again and be more creative,” says Nissan’s design chief Alfonso Albaisa from Nissan Design Europe’s central London home. “It amplifies each of us in the team. It can give you ten different versions of your own idea which you can then curate, spitting out something you can rebel against or run with.”

Sourcing the design, engineering and manufacturing of its European cars within their market has been a boon for the Japanese carmaker and a key to its success, the Juke and Qashqai consistently among Europe’s bestsellers.

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