Nissan says the introduction of its Infiniti Q30 next year could see it take on up to 300 more staff at its Sunderland plant in north east England.

The news is a welcome shot in the arm for the region, which has endured high jobless levels, with Nissan now employing more than 7,000 people for the first time.

"We are introducing Infiniti next year and we will probably hire around another 300 [staff] for that," Nissan vice president, manufacturing UK, Kevin Fitzpatrick, told just-auto at yesterday's launch of the new Qashqai in Sunderland.

"Basically, the plant is already running on a three-shift basis on the production line. We are here to stay as long as we are good enough.

"It is not Nissan being sentimental - you are only as good as your next hour - we don't inherit models - we have to bid for them every time."

Nissan's manufacturing vice president also hailed the relationship with UK government, in particular the Department for Business, Innovation & Skills, with this positive political input extending across successive governments.

"The encouraging thing we have seen over the last few years is successive parties have recognised manufacturing industry is very important [for] the UK economy," he said.

"For UK PLC, manufacturing and engineering needs to continue to expand because that is where the value-added is."

Nissan's success - it does not expect to produce less than 500,000 cars this year - has led to the Unite union urging the automaker to reflect that performance in the next round of pay talks but the manufacturer is declining to comment on future demands.

"Obviously we do value our workforce and we do have to reward appropriately - and we do," said Fitzpatrick. "We do have to be mindful that we are in a competitive industry.

"With regard to what Unite said, we don't comment. We saw their comments. We are in the second year of a two-year deal."

Unite is calling on Nissan to "recognise the contribution of the workforce during the next set of negotiations," adding it "deserves a boost in pay and conditions" with a salary claim due in January, next year.

Fitzpatrick added Nissan's launch of three models in ten months had proved attractive to prospective engineers wanting to join the automaker.

"Engineering has not been historically a big problem for us, recruiting-wise," he said. "Because we are big - and engineers like working on big executive projects - and we have launched three new models in ten months - we have given them job satisfaction.

The automaker says Nissan has now invested GBP534m (US$886m) in Qashqai development and production, supporting more than 220 suppliers in 22 countries and exporting to more than 130 global markets.