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Automotive - SNOP UK

Within less than two years, leading French automotive component manufacturer Financière SNOP Dunois (FSD) will have moved from a small in-house production facility in Sunderland to its own fully-fledged, stand-alone, manufacturing site.

And at the same time it will have committed to choosing Sunderland as its first UK manufacturing plant.

Run by FSD's subsidiary, SNOP, the plant manufactures and assembles body parts for Nissan's Qashqai and Note cars as well as for the new Leaf, the world's first, affordable, mass-market, pure-electric car, due in showrooms early in 2013.

Currently, SNOP - which was set up in 2010, with a staff of 30, as a more cost-effective solution to importing the body parts - operates in workshops within the Sunderland Nissan plant site. As demand for Nissan's cars has grown, and the capability and size of SNOP's workforce increased, it soon became clear that a separate manufacturing site was needed.

FSD, which has 26 factories across Europe, China, Turkey and Morocco, has invested £5 million in refitting the new 14,000 square metres manufacturing site at Rainhill Business Park, close to the Nissan plant. It is designed to hold 30 robotic cells, stamping and assembly presses to create over 90 automotive body parts.

"Sunderland City Council's business investment team has been extremely helpful throughout our discussions, and has worked with us to find an ideal location for our UK manufacturing base," says Tony Brown, SNOP's Plant Manager, adding: "The team has been very supportive in helping us cut our costs, such as business rates, to allow us to grow."

SNOP currently have around 50 staff but are looking to increase to 150 jobs. "And it could be more," adds Brown. "Although we only supply Nissan at the moment, that's not to say we won't be considering other customers. We benefit from very good skills levels in this area. We've had an automotive business sector here for over 25 years and it's created a real passion for the work. That goes a long way, globally."

FSD's Yannick Jiquel, Director of Western Area, adds: "The location is ideal for us, close to Nissan and to its supply chain, and there are many experienced, skilled people in this area which is critical to ensure we have a high quality future workforce."

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Matthew Hunt became Port Director at the Port of Sunderland in 2010. Matthew previously worked as Commercial Manager for the Seaham Harbour Dock Company, he spent 14 years at the Port of Tyne where he rose to the position of Commercial Director of Port Services before coming to Sunderland.

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