Nissan invests £100m in Sunderland plant

Japanese car maker Nissan has announced it will invest £100m in its UK plant to build the new Juke model.

The investment will secure thousands of jobs at the Sunderland factory, which produces the current Juke, Qashqai, Note and electric Leaf models.

The firm said the money gave “security to our Sunderland plant beyond 2020”.

Chancellor George Osborne welcomed the “fantastic news” that was “an important sign of Britain being chosen as a global leader in car production”.

The plant made 500,000 cars last year, making it the biggest car plant in the UK, according to Nissan.

According to Prof David Bailey from Aston Business School, Nissan’s Sunderland plant makes more cars than the whole of the Italian car industry.

The new investment will secure 6,700 jobs at the plant and more than 27,000 in the supply chain.

Unite union assistant general secretary Tony Burke said: “We warmly welcome the decision of Nissan to build the new Juke model in the UK, when it could have gone to one of Nissan’s plants abroad.

“The decision demonstrates the confidence the industry has in a highly skilled and dedicated workforce across the UK automotive industry.”

Global market ‘turbulent’

Nissan Europe chairman Paul Wilcox told the BBC the plant was “probably the most productive in Europe and, I’d argue, globally”.

He added that although demand in Russia and China was slowing, the car market in western Europe was “very good and improving, and the market in the UK is very, very good”.

“We are not getting carried away as the global market is turbulent, but we are seeing slight growth in demand.”

According to figures from the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, UK car production in the first half of the year hit a seven-year high of 793,642 cars – the equivalent of three cars every minute.

This was the highest production since 2008, the year of the financial crisis that sparked a deep recession in the UK.

This is Peugeot’s Fractal concept, and it looks excellent

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It’s fair to say Peugeot knows how to build a concept. Witness the Onyx, SR-1, EX1 and RC Prototype. Now there’s this new Fractal concept, an all-electric, compact 2+2 coupe (although the whole roof lifts off) that projects how Peugeots could look, feel and sound in the future.

The one-off design study, scheduled for a Frankfurt Motor Show premiere, is shorter than a 208 supermini at just 3.8m in length, but much lower and wider and with massive 19-inch wheels wrapped in skinny low rolling resistance tyres. It’s a muscular shape for something so small. The front end is an exaggeration of what we’ll see on the new 3008 SUV next year (a fact confirmed by design director Gilles Vidal), while the squat rear end is covered in laser-cut, textured matt-black panels with a spangly, full width LED strip.

On the inside things start to get complicated. The floor, side and door panels are all covered in furry, 3D-printed blocks – much like the protruding mini pyramids you might find on the walls in a recording studio. The idea is to absorb unwanted sounds and improve the clarity of the 12-speaker sound system, complete with a vibrating sub-woofer against your spine. We sampled it and if you’re a fan of being tied to a seven-foot speaker in your local nightclub, you’ll love this.

A fully-digital instrument panel (although not a holographic system like the one here) will appear in a production car “very soon”, according to Vidal – our bets are on next year’s 3008 – while the Fractal’s oval steering wheel and cripplingly-uncomfortable seats will not.

A symphony of sounds for alerting pedestrians of your impending arrival has already been designed (from 2019 all EVs will need to make noises below 30km/h by law), along with a fake ‘exhaust’ note reminiscent of the Starship Enterprise in warp drive. Warp speeds are unlikely though with just 201bhp on tap from a pair of electric motors – one at each axle – fed by a block of lithium-ion batteries forming the spine of the car.

According to Vidal the point isn’t to preview a new 208, or to hint at a new RCZ. It doesn’t pave the way for an EV sports car either. No, the Fractal’s job is to get us excited about the brand’s future. In that case, job done.