U.S. automotive manufacturer Lear Corporation plans to create 100 jobs as part of a multi-million pound investment to more than double the size of one of its Sunderland factories.
Lear is extending its plant on Sunderland City Council's Rainton Bridge Industrial Estate by a further 3,500sq m to house additional production equipment and support growing UK automotive seating foam business.
The project has also received £500,000 funding from the Let's Grow Regional Growth Fund.
The factory, which opened in 2011, was Lear's first UK foam manufacturing facility for vehicle seating and combined with its neighbouring seat assembly plant, now employs 420 people. The additional jobs are planned to be created over the next three years as the factory ramps up production to meet existing Nissan business and additional new business for Jaguar Landrover (JLR).
The new foam business for Lear Sunderland will be supplied to its Lear sister assembly plants located in the Midlands. This will add foam production into Sunderland for JLR models. Lear in Sunderland will begin work on the first tranche using its existing equipment and will ramp up production and start creating jobs once the extension is completed next year.
Lear is one of the world's top automotive component makers with 221 manufacturing sites in 36 countries, employing 122,000 people. Its seating and electrical components are found in more than 300 types of vehicle made by virtually every car manufacturer around the globe.
The US company's President of Europe and Africa, Gideon Jewel, will be visiting Sunderland from his European headquarters to carry out the ground-breaking ceremony for the new development with Sunderland City Council leader, Councillor Paul Watson today.
Mr Jewel said: "We worked closely with Sunderland City Council to bring Lear to the city in 2011 and they have strongly supported the extension of the plant. The Sunderland workforce have a track record of productivity and efficiency and this has been an integral part of the decision to invest further in Sunderland.
"This announcement closely follows the recent agreement of Lear to acquire the world's largest provider of leather for automotive interiors, 'Eagle-Ottawa'. This along with the expansion of our foam manufacturing capability in Sunderland will further strengthen Lear's position in automotive seating and support our vertical integration strategy and acceleration of growth."
The Sunderland plant currently supplies foam seating to Nissan for Qashqai models. Once the extension is completed, Lear's capacity will increase by more than 300,000 car seats per year, taking its total capacity to over 600,000 per year.
Lear Corporation Sunderland plant manager, Jim Casey, said: "This is an exciting time for the Sunderland workforce and Lear's decision to make this happen here is testament to the capability of our employees, our networks and strong links to the city and its university. We strongly appreciate the support of Sunderland City Council through this entire process."
Cllr Watson, who will be attending the ground-breaking ceremony, said: "This extension and new business is fantastic news for Lear, the region and employment. We have a vibrant automotive supply industry centred on Sunderland and Lear's decision to extend its Rainton Bridge plant is proof the sector is going from strength to strength.
"The City Council spent 18 months working with Lear to bring the company to the North East back in 2011, and we're delighted they are confirming their strong commitment to Sunderland with this new investment and job creation."
Lawrence Davies, deputy chief executive of the Automotive Investment Organisation, said: "This is a great result of collaborative working between Lear, Sunderland City Council and UK Trade & Investment. The expansion supports our very successful automotive industry and continued inward investment into the UK supply chain."