Issue: Jan 2014


Sunderland's strong year in automotive sector set to grow



by Alan Tran

Sunderland’s automotive sector is looking stronger than ever for 2014 following significant growth last year. There were a number of major investments and job opportunities including announcements by Nissan, TRW and Gestamp in their Sunderland operations during 2013.

Sunderland City Council’s decision to grant planning permission for Nissan to expand its plant led to the company announcing that it plans to invest £250million and create 1,000 jobs in the automotive sector. The move will also bring premium car production to Sunderland, with the Infiniti Q30 going into production in 2015.

Nissan has undertaken an unprecedented £750m new model launch programme, starting in March 2013 with the 100% electric Nissan LEAF, followed by the new Nissan Note in September and kicking off 2014 with the new Nissan Qashqai going into full production.

Councillor Paul Watson, Leader of Sunderland City Council said: “We are immensely proud of the progress and performance of the Nissan plant and its outstanding workforce at Sunderland. We have worked closely with the manufacturer to ensure that it has the conditions it needs to thrive in Sunderland. This expansion, following record-breaking car production levels, is proof that the city is fast achieving its aim of being a globally recognised automotive hub for manufacturing and investment.”
Earlier in 2013 TRW in Sunderland announced a £15million investment in its plant following the success of its bid to the Government’s Regional Growth Fund for £1.75million. The investment is funding two new lines and enabling TRW to build the next generation of power steering motors for global customers from its Houghton-le-Spring factory.

The company also announced that it had secured two major contracts with international car manufacturers as a result of the announcement. Maciej Gwozdz, TRW’s Vice President for Steering Operations in Europe said: “This investment underpins the long-term future of the Sunderland plant and means we can invest in innovative technology to build more efficient systems for automotive manufacturers.”
Sunderland-based car parts manufacturer Gestamp won its first major contract with BMW, to provide parts for the new MINI series. Gestamp invested £150,000 in a new 1125 sq m extension at its Washington plant to store the newly-produced MINI parts before they are delivered to Oxford.

The company, which has 196 employees at Sunderland, designs and builds chassis and parts for global motor manufacturers Nissan, General Motors, Jaguar Landrover and now BMW.

As a result of the BMW contract, which runs until 2021, nine temporary staff at Gestamp have become permanent. With the new long-term contracts Gestamp operations director Mark Potts forecasts that turnover in 2015 will be between £34m-£37m.

Warehousing and logistics company Vantec Europe Ltd began 2013 by celebrating the successful completion of its 38,750 square metres new £22.5m warehouse in Sunderland at Turbine Business Park. Now fully utilised, the building is bringing new jobs to the region as part of Vantec’s strategy to increase staff by over 230 through to 2017.

Councillor Paul Watson said: “The achievements of Sunderland’s automotive and supply chain companies last year set the stage for a strong year of productivity and growth in 2014. This sector is key to economic growth in the city, region and UK, and the record-breaking production capabilities of Sunderland-based companies have brought the city major new investment and have positioned us as a global hub for automotive manufacturing.”

The Regional Growth Fund is a £3.2 billion fund designed to help companies in England to grow. So far £2.6 billion of funding has been allocated to support projects and programmes committed to deliver sustainable jobs and economic growth. Round 5 closed on 9 December and selected bidders will be announced in the spring 2014. For more information, please go to www.bis.gov.uk/rgf

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