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Lear Corporation extension opening doubles Sunderland plant's capacity

Automotive supplier's new space to create 100 jobs by 2017.

The new extension to automotive supplier Lear Corporation's Sunderland plant, which is creating more than 100 jobs, was officially opened at 10.00am on Thursday 1 October. 

The multi-million pound investment by the US foam production giant, supported by £500,000 funding from the Let's Grow Regional Growth Fund, has more than doubled the size of the Rainton Bridge Industrial Estate facility. 

The additional 3,500sq m will allow the company to meet increased demand for car seating foam from Nissan and Jaguar Landrover (JLR), doubling its production capacity from more than 300,000 to 600,000-plus car seats a year. 

The Sunderland plant, which was Lear's first facility in the UK, will make foam for the company's assembly plants in the Midlands. Lear Sunderland currently manufactures components for the Nissan Qashqai built in Washington and the extra capacity will also service new business from JLR. 

Recruitment at the site has already begun, with more than 100 new jobs set to be created by the time production hits its expected peak in 2017. 

Lear Sunderland Operations Director, Jim Casey, said: "The recruitment started earlier this year in line with our recruitment plan to get the first starters trained and ready for the start of production in June. 

"We have already recruited over 40 new starters and will be continuing as production ramps up. We now employ over 400 people in Sunderland. 

"The existing facility has been producing Nissan Qashqai parts since 2011 and the additional capacity will support Jaguar Land Rover business where Sunderland will be supplying parts to our Lear Just in Time Plants in the Midlands, who are supplying JLR with the full seat assemblies. 

"We are currently ramping up production of parts for Jaguars XF vehicles. More programmes will be launching in the coming months starting with the foams for the Jaguar F Pace at the end of the year." 

The new extension will be officially opened by Lear Corporation's President Global JIT, Gideon Jewel, and Sunderland City Council leader, Cllr Paul Watson. 

Mr Jewel, who is travelling to Sunderland from Lear's European HQ for the ceremony, said: "This is the culmination of many months of planning and hard work, and I'm delighted to be in Sunderland to open the extension with Cllr Watson. 

"Sunderland City Council has been a strong supporter of Lear since we originally spoke to them about opening a plant in the city. The City Council has provided a massive amount of support in driving the project on within a tight timescale, and has helped connect us with the grant fund application process, planning permission and environmental aspects. 

"Sunderland is a great place to do business. We have a productive and committed workforce here and enjoy good links with the university." 

Cllr Watson said: "I'm proud to be opening the extension with Gideon and welcome the commitment Lear has shown to a long-term future in Sunderland. 

"The city is on the automotive map and Lear's new capacity, contracts and job creation rubber-stamp the importance of the city to this sector. We look forward to continuing to work with Lear to grow its business here in Sunderland." 

Lear is one of the world's top automotive component makers and employs 122,000 people at 221 manufacturing sites in 36 countries. Lear seating and electrical components are used in more than 300 types of vehicle made by virtually every car manufacturer. 

Lawrence Davies, deputy CEO of the Automotive Investment Organisation, said:

"This is a red letter day for the North East's automotive industry and shows what can be achieved through the partnership approach. 

"Lear's continued investment in Sunderland is further evidence of the importance of the city as an automotive supply hub, which is expanding year on year." 

The factory extension was carried out by multi-disciplinary property company Marick Real Estate with contractor Bowman and Kirkland. 
Marick Real Estate chief executive Patrick Going said: "We're delighted to complete this new, modern facility for Lear. The extension shows the automotive sector's continued growth in the North East, and we are proud to have played our part in supplying the facilities to foster that expansion."