NISSAN'S North-East workers have made more than one million cars over the last two years, new figures have revealed.  

The milestone for the Japanese manufacturer's Sunderland plant has been reached as the firm's new Qashqai model has been named 2014 Car of the Year by What Car magazine. 

Production of the new version of the Qashqai will make its official launch at the Wearside factory on January 22, the car marker confirmed.  

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The 2013 factory output figure of 501,756 came at the end of a year when Prime Minster David Cameron visited the plant to mark the launch of the Nissan Leaf, and work began on an extension to enable production of the Infiniti Q30 from 2015.

Furthermore, monthly production broke the 50,000 barrier in October for the first time in Nissan’s 27-year history of manufacturing in the UK, with eight different models built during the year.

Kevin Fitzpatrick, Nissan’s vice president for manufacturing in the UK, said: “Building over a million cars in two years is a further sign of Nissan’s growing brand presence in one of the most competitive markets in Europe.

“Exceeding output of 500,000 units for a second year is an even greater achievement given we combined this high volume whilst also starting production of the all-electric Nissan Leaf at the plant, along with the launch of the new Note, and replacing the most popular car we have ever made with the new generation Qashqai.”

In 2013, more than 286,000 of the cars built in Sunderland last year were Nissan Qashqais, now in its eighth year of production. 

Total Qashqai production in the UK now stands at 1,752,232 since 2006.

“Our workforce continues to set the benchmark for productivity and quality and I would like to thank and congratulate them all on reaching this latest milestone,” said Mr Fitzpatrick.

Last night, Nissan picked up the Car of the Year accolade at the 37th annual What Car? Awards, held at the Grosvenor House on London’s Park Lane.

This is the first time that Nissan has won the publication's overall title. The Sunderland-built Qashqai was also named best small SUV.

What Car? editor-in-chief Chas Hallett said: “The all-new Nissan Qashqai brings excellence and polish to a class of cars that is brimming with talent and tempting buys. The Qashqai delivers low costs and first-class levels of comfort, refinement, space and safety.

“Nissan has thought of every last detail, and this complete approach is why the Qashqai is What Car?’s Car of the Year. The Nissan team should be justifiably proud of their achievement.”