The Newcastle Journal reports the first production Nissan Micra [March] – the supermini which secured 1,300 north-east England jobs – rolls off the production line at Nissan’s Wearside plant today.

Last January Nissan president Carlos Ghosn announced the firm had chosen Sunderland ahead of Flins, just outside Paris, for the contract to build the Micra.

Ghosn said then the decision was based on three factors – the belief a stable exchange rate in the future would boost profits, a £40m aid package from the UK government and Sunderland’s high productivity record.

The new Micra will create 500 new jobs and the Washington factory has undergone a major refit to accommodate the new model. One hundred extra production robots, an expanded paint and body shop and major re-tooling has been carried out at the plant, which employs 4,900 people.

Nissan has set itself an ambitious target of selling 160,000 models a year across Europe, which would allow the firm to achieve an 8% profit margin and have zero net automotive debt by 2005.

The company’s original Micra, the first of which rolled off the Wearside production line in 1992, has sold 1.3 million units in 10 years but the new car needs to find 20,000 buyers a year more than the current model ever did.

The Wearside plant has in place a three-shift system, up from the current two a day, which would be capable of raising production from 350,000 cars a year to 500,000. More than 3,000 a week will be built on Wearside, the report said.