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Petrol engines assembled under a new contract just awarded to Nissan’s Sunderland plant, in north east England, could soon be on their way to the automaker’s new Russian vehicle assembly plant.

Government development agency One North East has granted Nissan GBP1.94m towards the GNP12.92m  spend over the next four years to upgrade or install new facilities to make the 65,000 engines to be produced annually from May 2010.

The automaker said the deal would would immediately safeguard up to 130 jobs and it hoped another 200 posts could be created by 2013 depending on market conditions.

All variants of the new engine will comply with Euro 5 and 6 CO2 emissions regulations and are destined for several vehicle lines including the Qashqai crossover also produced in Sunderland.

Nissan is also considering shipping them to Sunderland’s sister plant in St Petersburg for use in the Russian-assembled X-Trail SUV.

“The announcement is part of Nissan’s ongoing initiative to localise production close to, or within, target markets. This minimises logistics costs and reduces exposure to exchange rates as well as allowing the company to react more quickly to customer demand,” the automaker said in a statement.

It added it hope to secure future engine build contracts.

The news is the latest in a flurry of announcements by Nissan in the last week which included new European lithium-ion battery plants, the roll-out of its dedicated electric vehicle platform and a new CVT transmission developed with supplier Jatco.