Nissan has announced that its Cranfield-based research and development facility, Nissan Technical Centre Europe (NTCE), is to play a key role in the company's global van programme.

Cranfield's designation as a 'centre of van excellence' has received UK government support from the East of England Development Agency (EEDA) whose grants totalling GBP100,000 over the past two years are helping to fund the training of engineering and design staff in the skills necessary to meet the needs of future van projects.
 
NTCE is currently contributing to the development of NV200, a small van which will be launched globally during 2009, first in Japan and then in Europe in the second half of the year. After the completion of the NV200 programme, NTCE will play a central role in the development of a new van series, with particular focus on the European market.
 
"We welcome the opportunity to support the expansion of the skills base of one of the UK's important automotive manufacturers," commented Business Secretary Lord Mandelson.

"Nissan is at the forefront of the automotive sector in the UK and the broadening of its knowledge base at Cranfield demonstrates the company's commitment to its UK-based research programmes. It is also a further endorsement of the pool of engineering talent that exists within this country."

Cranfield's expanded responsibilities are part of a broader plan announced by Nissan's Light Commercial Vehicle Business Unit (LCV BU) to renew its global LCV line-up by 2012 with 13 all-new products. The unit's commitments within the Nissan GT 2012 business plan include the doubling of LCV revenues and the delivery of 'first class levels of customer satisfaction'.
 
The first of the 13 all-new products, the NP200 small pick-up, has already been launched in South Africa, while the second will be the NV200 in which Cranfield has played a key development role.
 
Nissan also plans to introduce a hybrid-powered LCV by the end of 2012.

A Cabstar Hybrid prototype was presented at the recent Hanover Motor Show and its reduced fuel consumption and Stop/Start technology make it ideal for operation in urban environments, Nissan says. Hybrid technology will be rolled out progressively within Nissan's larger capacity LCVs, while the company is also considering the possibility of introducing all-electric propulsion technology into its smaller van ranges.

"We have already achieved accelerated growth of the Nissan LCV business with sales rising from 312,000 units in 2004 to 520,000 in 2007, but we have a long way to go before we reach our full potential," said Andy Palmer, Corporate Vice President, Nissan Motor Company, LCV BU.

"We aim to expand our business much further with smart new products and services that meet the needs of our customers, both in Europe and around the world.
 
"Needless to say, the ingenuity and creativity of centres such as Cranfield are an essential part of that process," said Palmer.