Hailed for its outstanding efficiency and due to attract as much as £100 million in UK state aid in the next few months, the Tyne and Wear plant is poised for even more expansion as Nissan drives to cut costs by 20% over the next three years and return to profitable trading next year. But the closure of three assembly plants and two powertrain manufacturing centres in the domestic market means Britain's gain will come at Japan's loss as the dynamic action prescribed by Renault, the company's controlling partner, takes effect.
'The Sunderland plant was my benchmark when I was at Renault,' said Ghosn, who won a reputation for cost-cutting after meeting target reductions in a programme to trim the French firm's manufacturing overheads. However painful, the plant closures will guarantee the future of the remaining plants by allowing them to be industry leaders both in terms of productivity and cost-effectiveness.'
'At the same time, we will rationalise and simplify our organisation and take advantage of reducing the number of Nissan platforms. Instead of dividing 24 platforms between seven plants in Japan as at present, we will have 15 platforms between four plants in 2002 - and will be building vehicles off just 12 platforms in 2004,' he said.