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Car parts firm's PS13m investment creates jobs; AUTOMOTIVE.

Byline: COREENA FORD coreena.ford@ncjmedia.co.uk

ARAFT of new jobs has been created following the installation of presses worth PS13m at car parts maker Unipres.

The new presses went live at the Sunderland factory just after Christmas, and have since led to the creation of 22 new jobs.

The giant pieces of kit - a 2,500 tonne Tri Axis transfer press and 600 tonne blanking press - are now working around the clock on three shifts, making lightweight steel parts mainly for use at Nissan.

As well as supplying Nissan, Japanese-owned Unipres produces parts for Renault and is also ramping up production to supply Honda in Swindon with components for its new Civic Global model, which will be sold in Europe and the US.

The new equipment completes a capital investment programme worth PS83m in the Sunderland plant which was started by the Unipres Corporation in 2013 and safeguarded 157 jobs on top of the 22 new positions on the new presses.

In all, the plant now has a workforce of 1,162 and 18 presses, using robots to assemble the steel components - an essential part of the new generation of fuel efficient cars being built - from 450 tonnes of steel every day.

Unipres managing director Gary Graham said: "This level of investment is a statement of belief and confidence in the long-term future of Unipres UK in supporting existing volumes and the on-going success of our major customers such as Nissan, Renault and Honda, whilst expanding our developing overseas markets in Europe and Russia which now equates to 25% of our business.

"The new presses went on to three shifts immediately and they are now working flat out. The investment gives us greater capacity and takes a load off the existing presses."

As well as supplying car manufacturers including Nissan and Renault, the company is focusing on increasing its exports in 2016 to customers in France, Spain and Russia.

Since arriving in Sunderland in 1987, Unipres has invested PS180m in the plant. The installation of the two new presses was the conclusion of a project that took two years from concept to completion, and was one the largest engineering tasks ever undertaken at the site.

Sunderland City Council leader Coun Paul Watson said: "Unipres is a fantastic asset to Sunderland's automotive sector, and we're delighted the company's latest investment has resulted in 22 new jobs.

"Unipres has a long-term commitment to the city, and we are proud to support the business as it goes from strength to strength, both in its business with domestic car manufacturers such as Nissan and in winning new global orders.

"Through the success of companies like Unipres, Sunderland is well and truly on the international automotive map as a great place to do business, supported by the strong infrastructure of a successful and mature industry."

CAPTION(S):

<Bl to r: Gary Graham, Unipres managing director and Coun Paul Watson, leader of Sunderland City Council

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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 1, 2016
Words:491
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