Nissan’s plant in Sunderland, north east England, on Thursday celebrated the 25th anniversary of its official opening on 8 September, 1986.

In 25 years, output has rizen from 5,139 Bluebirds (based on the Japanese market Stanza) in that first year to 423,262 cars in 2010 – which the first time a UK car plant had made more than 400,000 vehicles in one year, according to Nissan.

It has now made over 6.2m vehicles and 12 different models at Sunderland, including the initial Bluebird, Primera, Micra, Almera, Note, Qashqai and Juke. Models such as the Micra and Qashqai have been exported as far as Australia. In 2010 81% of production was exported to 97 countries.

“I celebrate this milestone with the Nissan Sunderland Plant and commend the significant achievements of the plant and its employees over the past 25 years,” said Carlos Ghosn, chairman and CEO of Nissan Motor.

“As the UK’s largest car plant, biggest car exporter, and soon battery plant – with battery production for the Leaf planned for next year – Sunderland is a beacon of Nissan’s exemplary leadership in manufacture, management and technology, which define a global car company in the 21st century.”

A ceremony was held at the plant in which a time capsule was buried on the site – recreating the ceremony held when construction of the plant began. The new time capsule updates the artefacts placed inside the original, including a model Qashqai, a telephone directory, newspapers from today, a Sunderland AFC shirt and items donated by regional partners such as the North East Chamber of Commerce.

Of the 430 people who were employed at the plant on 8 September, 1986, 133 remain and today’s ceremony was performed by two of those original members of staff: Nissan’s Europe manufacturing head, Trevor Mann, and UK manufacturing chief, Kevin Fitzpatrick.

Production will start at the adjacent lithium-ion battery plant in 2012 ahead of Leaf production beginning at Sunderland in 2013.