Government welcomes the Nissan electric vehicles Leaf to the UK

Nissan investment of more than £420 million safeguards and creates 550 highly skilled engineering jobs at Sunderland. News that Nissan will produce their electric car, the LEAF, in Sunderland was welcomed by the Business Secretary Lord Mandelson today (18 March).

The Government is to commit £20.7 million under the Grant for Business Investment scheme for both the production of the car and the new battery plant at Sunderland. This will support total investment of over £420 million by Nissan in their UK operations.

Nissan has plans to make up to 50,000 vehicles and 60,000 batteries a year which will help to safeguard and create over 550 highly skilled jobs at the Sunderland plant.

The Business Secretary announced the government investment for Nissan as one of the company’s top executives demonstrated the advanced technology of the car at the Department’s offices in London.

Lord Mandelson said: "This investment is a fantastic vote of confidence in the Sunderland plant and its excellent workforce.

"The automotive sector is of key importance to the UK. It supports R&D, technological innovation, skills and a supply chain that’s a mainstay of the wider manufacturing sector.

"Today’s news from Nissan, with support from government, shows that by working together we can achieve our aim of making the UK a world-leader in ultra-low carbon vehicles."

Andy Palmer, senior Vice President responsible for Nissan’s global electric vehicle strategy, said: "The world is at the dawn of a new era in automotive transport. Nissan LEAF, which will go on sale later this year, is a five-seater hatchback that offers the same space, practicality and performance of a similar car in its class – minus the tailpipe emissions."

"Thanks to the UK’s firm commitment to a low carbon future in terms of infrastructure, customer incentives and educational programmes, Nissan LEAF will be built at Sunderland, making the UK the third country in the world to produce this revolutionary car."

Earlier today the Government also said it is to support Ford’s £1.5 billion investment in creating a new generation of environmentally friendly engines. The Government will provide £380 million in loan guarantees towards six Ford projects through its Automotive Assistance Programme (AAP).

Ford’s plans will safeguard around 2.800 highly skilled jobs in the UK at its manufacturing plants in Dagenham, Southampton and Bridgend in south Wales as well as its research and development centre at Dunton in Essex.

Government support for Nissan and Ford follows last week’s announcement of a 300 million Euros loan guarantee to General Motors Europe, helping to secure the company’s operations in the UK at Ellesmere Port, Luton and Millbrook and the rest of Europe.

A year ago Business Secretary Lord Mandelson was at the Sunderland plant where he witnessed a Memorandum of Understanding signed by the regional development agency, One North East (ONE) and Nissan to explore the development of zero emission mobility.

The Government said that it would support Nissan when the company announced in July 2009 that it was planning to build a battery plant in Sunderland.

The North East has been created as a Low Carbon Economic Area (LCEA) for ultra low carbon vehicles (July 2009). It is being delivered by One North East. LCEAs aim to accelerate the development of priority low carbon sectors by focussing on geographic areas of the UK where there are clear existing strengths.

Regional support for the development of electric vehicles has seen dozens of companies and organisations pledge more than £1m for charging points. Through the Plugged in Places programme, these partners are helping One North East to install 1,300 charging points at locations ranging from garden centres and hotels to new housing schemes and supermarkets, to visitor destinations including Hadrian’s Wall and the Newcastle and Gateshead Quaysides.

The North East has been selected as one of the first three UK Electric Car Hubs alongside London and Milton Keynes. These three locations will act as national trailblazers for electric vehicle charging infrastructure and will be linked by a network of charging points at motorway services and railway station car parks.

As with all projects of this size, the Government sought independent, commercially-based advice from the Industrial Development Advisory Board (IDAB) The IDAB is appointed under Section 10 of the Industrial Development Act 1982. It provides independent advice to Ministers in BIS on applications from companies who are proposing to undertake capital investment projects in the Assisted Areas in England and have applied for financial assistance under the Grant for Business Investment (GBI) scheme.

The Grant for Business Investment scheme is part of Solutions for Business, the government’s streamlined portfolio of business support products accessible via Business Link.

This grant is subject to approval from the European Commission. Government officials will now be working closely on this with the EC.