The project will create an extra 1,000 jobs in the UK, including some 280 in the North-East. The Etherea is seen by Nissan as competition for the Audi A3 and the BMW 1-Series.
Etherea will be manufactured only in Sunderland and production, when it gathers momentum, is expected to hit at least 60,000 a year. Additional contributions will come from Nissan’s London design centre as well as the Nissan European Technical Centre (NETC) at Cranfield, Bedfordshire, which also handles design work as well as component and vehicle development.
Nissan’s Infiniti ‘luxury’ brand is the equivalent of Toyota’s Lexus.
Colin Dodge, Nissan’s executive vice-president and chief performance officer said: “This confirms our commitment to UK manufacturing.”
Etherea will be the first front-wheel-drive Infiniti and will be powered by a 2.5-litre I4 supercharged gasoline engine. In addition, it will carry a continuously variable transmission (CVT) and a 25kW electric motor.
The Sunderland plant already builds Qashqai, Note and Juke models to which early this year it will add production of the electric Leaf. With the arrival of Etherea the UK plant will be building a wide range of vehicles – both low-end and high-end vehicles.
In 2012, the plant produced over 500,000 vehicles, which Nissan claims to be a record. Nissan’s UK facility first began producing cars in 1986 and investment has topped £3.5 billion. The facility currently employs around 6,000 people. ∎