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Nissan's boost to UK motor industry
The motor industry was given a huge boost when Japanese car giant Nissan announced plans to build a new model in the UK under a £125 million investment programme, creating 2,000 jobs.
The vehicle will be built at the Sunderland plant from mid-2013 in a project supported by a £9.3 million grant from the Government and described by Business Secretary Vince Cable as a "resounding win".
Some of the gloss was taken off the news when mining giant Rio Tinto Alcan confirmed it will shut an aluminium smelting plant at Lynemouth, Northumberland, less than 30 miles from the Nissan factory, with the loss of more than 500 jobs.
And there was renewed speculation about a rift in the coalition about economic policy with fresh reports that Mr Cable has warned David Cameron and Nick Clegg that the Government lacks a "compelling vision of where the country is heading" beyond cutting the deficit.
The BBC reported details of a letter, first reported in the Financial Times on February 12, four days after it was written, in which Mr Cable warned that ministers needed to articulate "a clear and confident message about how we will earn our living in future".
The letter was leaked just minutes after Mr Cable addressed a national conference in London of the EEF manufacturers' organisation, in which he praised the automotive industry and warmly welcomed the £125 million investment from Nissan.
The workforce at Sunderland, where Nissan first started producing cars in 1986, will increase by 400 to a record 6,000, while thousands of jobs will be created among firms supplying the factory.
It is expected that the new model, with a current concept name of Invitation, will have an initial production run of 100,000 a year, helping to cement Sunderland as the largest car plant in the UK - a position it has held for the last 14 years. In 2011, the plant's 25th anniversary year, Sunderland set a new production record with more than 480,000 models rolling off the lines.
Trevor Mann, Nissan's senior vice president for manufacturing in Europe, said: "This plant has a 20-year heritage in producing successful compact cars stretching back to the first Micra rolling off the line in 1992. I'm delighted that Sunderland has secured what will be another very important model for Nissan in Europe. It is a testament to the workforce, the ongoing support from the UK Government and all of our regional partners and suppliers."
Mr Mann, speaking from the Geneva Motor Show, where the new car was officially unveiled, told the Press Association there had been "competitive bidding" from other Nissan plants across the world to build the new car, praising efficiency levels at Sunderland.