Japanese carmaker Nissan Motor Co yesterday said it would spend US$200 million to build a new hatchback at its UK plant, as British Prime Minister David Cameron began a tour of Japan and Southeast Asia aimed at boosting trade and investment ties.
The investment, announced hours before Cameron’s plane touched down at Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, underscored the business focus of his trip.
“Nissan’s investment in the UK is a huge vote of confidence in the skills and flexibility of the UK workforce. We want to attract more investment like this,” said Cameron, due to meet later yesterday with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda.
“This trip is really about British business, British exports and investment from Britain into these countries, and investment from these countries into Britain,” Cameron told reporters accompanying him.
Nissan’s new car, which does not yet have a name, will go into production in 2014 and create 225 jobs at its Sunderland factory in northern England, and 900 more at the carmaker’s British suppliers.
The new commitment comes on top of US$200 million Nissan plans to spend to build its new Invitation compact vehicle from mid-next year in Sunderland and will take manufacturing capacity at Britain’s biggest car plant beyond 550,000 vehicles a year.
Cameron’s two-year-old coalition government, which is trying to boost British manufacturing to lessen reliance on financial services rocked by the 2008-2009 global crisis, backed the new Nissan investment with ￡8.2 million (US$13 million) of funding.
The car industry has been a bright spot for the stagnating British economy with Toyota and Jaguar Land Rover, owned by India’s Tata Motors, recently announcing new British investments, although there are questions over the future of GM’s Ellesmere Port plant.
Cameron also aims to reduce Britain’s dependence on trade with the crisis-hit eurozone by doing more business with fast-growing Asian economies and emerging markets around the world.
His latest trip, where he is accompanied by 35 executives from companies, including defense giant BAE Systems, engine maker Rolls-Royce and oil major Shell, is the latest in a series of visits to key overseas markets.
In all, British officials say, more than ￡200 million of Japanese investment in Britain will be announced during Cameron’s visit, including a Mitsubishi Corp wind turbine research project in Edinburgh and a Panasonic fuel cell research center in Cardiff.
Cameron and Noda are expected to discuss cooperation on defense manufacturing, nuclear decommissioning and free trade, as well as the violence in Syria and relations with Iran and North Korea.
Architecture and infrastructure firms and nuclear industry executives are with Cameron, reflecting British hopes for a slice of the vast sums Japan will spend to clean up and rebuild regions devastated by last year’s earthquake and tsunami.