It’s already contributed to the development of NV200 — Nissan’s new small van due for launch here in 2009 — and will be kept busy working on other new models destined for the UK and mainland Europe. Nissan’s aim is to develop a range of light commercials that will be distinctly different from those marketed by its stablemate Renault. At present much of its range consists of re-badged versions of models produced by the French manufacturer.

The global economic crisis is not prompting Nissan to change its plans. “So far I have not been asked to cancel any of our projects,” says Andy Palmer, corporate vice president, light commercial vehicle business unit, who has a global brief. Since 2000 Nissan’s international annual LCV sales have soared from 187,000 to over 600,000. “We aim to position ourselves as a major, if not the major, van-maker worldwide,” he says.

NTCE’s designation as a centre of van excellence has received government support from the East of England Development Agency, with grants totalling £100,000 over the past two years. “We welcome the opportunity to support expansion of the skills base of one of the UK’s important automotive manufacturers,” says Secretary of State for Business, Peter Mandelson.