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Striking a high Note.

Nissan stands firmly third again in the North-East Top 200 ( and strikes a high Note for the region's automotives sector.

The manufacturer that employs more than 4,400 at Washington aims to defy the industry's current downward curve of sales by launching three new "made in the North-East" cars in 15 months. Currently sales of the newly launched Note are 20% ahead of projection.

Last September it was the Micra C+C. And by December it will introduce its sixth model, the QashQai ( part 4x4 and part hatchback. The last check showed Nissan using 23 local suppliers out of 206 in total.

Among heavy commercial manufacturers, Komatsu (26th in the Top 200) is doubling in size and heading for record production of excavators at Birtley. It has made its biggest machine investment after five years during which sales tripled, and the workforce more than doubled to 753. The 3,700 earth shakers its 753 workers turn out yearly ( 20 a day ( could rise 6pc to 4,000 shortly.

Cummins, which now builds 210 truck engines daily, expanded its workforce to 830 during the celebration of its 40th anniversary at Darlington. Caterpillar at Peterlee and Teesside, is building 12 powerful multi-wheeled off-highway trucks a day.

In niche activities, Smiths Electric Vehicles (SEV) hopes to pull further ahead of the field with a recent launch of two new models. A long-established Gateshead firm acquired and relocated to North-West Durham by engineers Tanfield in 2004, it finds environmentally-friendly electric vehicles in growing demand..

At Derwentside, caravan builder Explorer Group (99th in the Top 200), is back to health six years after having to pay off 130 workers. Now its workforce of 442 turns out Elddis, Compass, Coachman, Crown, Autohomes and Buccaneer models.

Among parts makers, Hashimoto at Boldon has expanded jobs and space, and a new start-up for the region is Lear Corporation ( one of the world's largest interior suppliers. At Rainton, near Houghton, its new joint venture with Tachi-S of Japan is called Tacle UK.

In the Top 200 Thyssen Krupp Auto Tallent at Newton Aycliffe is up three places to 33rd, Magna Kansei jumped 74 places to 41st, and Unipres six places to 58th. Other automotive firms to make the 200 cut include: Schmitz Cargobull, Stanley's manufacturer of refrigeration trailers coming in at 122nd and Saia Burgess the Gateshead maker of micro switches at 169th.

Mechetronics of Bishop Auckland, the UK's leading producer of solenoids has announced a pounds 540,000 contract for the United States.

The Castleside, County Durham, division of Derbyshire firm RA Labone, with the backing of a regional grant, has invested pounds 1.5m in new equipment to fend off growing competition from Eastern Europe and the Far East. It moulds larger plastic parts for vehicles.
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:The Journal (Newcastle, England)
Geographic Code:9JAPA
Date:Jun 21, 2006
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