Nissan is to invest a further GBP2.4m in its Sunderland plant in north-east England, to increase production of its new Qashqai crossover.

The car, pitched as a model to ‘redefine’ the European C-segment five-door hatchback, last December replaced the conventional Almera hatch and sedan line, Tino MPV (minivan) and D-segment Primera hatch, sedan and wagon in Nissan’s European line-up and has quickly proved a hit with buyers.

UK pricing spans the GBP13,000 to GBP23,000 range and it is offered with petrol and diesel engines, two- or four-wheel drive, manual and automatic gearboxes and three generous equipment levels.

Nissan said the cash injection would boost Qashqai output by the 20% needed to keep pace with demand for the ‘compact crossover’.

Since launch, over 60,000 units have been built, and 130,000 more are planned before the end of the 2007 financial year.

The additional investment will be used to make facility improvements on the Qashqai line, which is working to fulfil excellent demand for the car right across Europe – the order bank for the European region is now approaching 60,000 units.

The Qashqai, which recently scored the maximum five stars in the European New Car Assessment Programme (Euro NCAP) adult occupant crash safety test, is also doing well in Japan, where sales started (as the Dualis) last week, Nissan said.

The UK-built model is also heading, again badged Dualis, to Australia to which the Sunderland plant shipped smaller B-segment Micra hatchbacks in the mid-1990s.

Although Japanese sales were initially targeted at 2,000 units per month, the car has attracted over 5,000 orders in its first week on sale.

The Sunderland plant’s deputy managing director Kevin Fitzpatrick said: “Qashqai is proving extremely popular and will help us achieve a record production year in ’07.

“Supporting this level of customer demand is very challenging and our manufacturing employees deserve a lot of credit for how hard they are working, but this is the kind of challenge every car plant should welcome.

“The additional investment from Japan will complement the measures we are introducing here such as moving (B-segment MPV/minivan) Note production onto our second line in September, to free up capacity for the Qashqai.”
This latest cash injection brings Nissan’s total investment by in Sunderland to GBP2.38bn.

The current 2007 volume forecast is 390,000 units  and the plant’s peak production year was 2003 when about 332,000 cars were built.