Infiniti to build new compact hatch at Sunderland from 2015

Infiniti to build new compact hatch at Sunderland from 2015

By Ollie Kew

Motor Industry

19 December 2012 01:00

Infiniti will build its new posh family hatchback at Nissan's Sunderland factory from 2015.

The landmark contract will create 1000 new jobs in the UK, 280 of which will be in the Sunderland plant itself. It's the latest thumbs up for the facility, which currently stamps out around 2000 new Nissans every day.

Give me the details of the Infiniti/Sunderland deal

Infiniti will enter the premium hatch market in 2015. It's set to fight the BMW 1-series and Audi A3 with the production model of the 2011 Etherea concept, seen in our image gallery to the right.

Thanks to parent-brand Nissan's accord with Daimler, the Infiniti hatchback will share Mercedes components. Yes, that means under the skin, it'll use exactly the same MFA architecture as one of its hottest rivals: the new Mercedes A-class.

Sunderland will produce 60,000 Infiniti hatches annually when work starts in 2015, though there's no word what the car will be called just yet. This follows the news that Infiniti will completely overhaul its naming system from January 2013, starting with the G50 sports-saloon.

How has Sunderland's factory scored such a juicy contract?

The factory has secured a £250m investment from Nissan to build Infinitis – the latest in a series of cash injections for the thriving plant. Around £188m was invested in November 2012 to tool the facility for production of the electric Nissan Leaf, beginning January 2013.

Since the factory opened in September 1986, investments made total £3.5bn, while Sunderland now sees 80% of its output exported. With 510,000 annual units the projected total for 2012 (led by the Qashqai crossover), it's a rare success story for European car makers among the mire of economic stagnation.

During 2012, employment on site passed 6000 personnel for the first time, and global exports from the plant now exceed five million units.

What about Nissan's return to the regular family car market?

That's the main caveat of this Infiniti deal. Readying the Sunderland plant for Infiniti production means the site will miss out on building Nissan's 'new Almera'.

The new hatchback is expected to arrive to fight the Ford Focus and Hyundai/Kia twins in 2014.