The two new models, based on the Tone and Qashqai showcars, will be produced at its Sunderland factory – Europe’s most productive automotive assembly facility for the past eight years – within 16 months, alongside Micra and the Micra C+C coupe convertible.
C+C production is to start in September, Tone in January 2006 and the Qashqai-based P32L from December 2006. Whether Almera and Primera will still be produced at Sunderland, or at another Renault-Nissan Alliance plant, or at all, remains in the balance.
Sunderland plant manager Colin Dodge, senior vice-president of manufacturing Nissan Europe, said: ‘It depends if we can sell them profitably. No decision has been made on whether either will continue or where they might be built if they do.’
He denied press speculation that up to 1,000 jobs are at risk in the north east should Primera be axed or a new version moved to share the Laguna line in France. The Primera has been produced in Sunderland since 1990 but which is now struggling to sell in Britain.
Production of Almera models runs at about 85,000 units a year and Primera 40,000 – a total of 125,000.
P32L volume alone is pitched initially at 105,000 units, rising to 130,000, in a plant that will be running at 320,000 units annually with current and new ranges and has the capacity to produce 400,000 on three to four different lines.
Dodge added: ‘Production of the P32L is a good decision for the company given our employees’ track records of handling the complexities of manufacturing multiple vehicles. It will be a challenge to integrate this all-new model into our product mix, along with our upcoming model changes. But this is the sort of challenge any car plant would welcome.’
He would not be pushed on a time-plan for either Almera or Primera but said he expects Almera buyers, and some Primera customers, to migrate towards Tone and P32L.
Dodge said: ‘Fleet business is important to us, and we believe user-choosers are leading the trend towards SUVs and crossovers. That’s a trend we are responding to.’