A CAR parts maker has expanded and created new jobs after a £6m investment to support a North-East vehicle manufacturer.

Mecaplast, in Peterlee, east Durham, has extended its plant to handle contracts from Sunderland's Nissan.

The company makes plastic door mouldings and mudguards and needed extra space after securing new work from the Japanese firm, which is now producing updated versions of its popular Qashqai, Juke and Note models.

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The firm received £1.9m cash backing from the North-East Local Enterprise Partnership's (Nelep) investment fund loan scheme, to increase factory and warehouse space.

A £2.5m debt finance deal from RBS/Lombard, coupled with Mecaplast investment, also helped buy new machinery.

Bosses say the changes have allowed it to double its workforce from about 85 workers to 170 staff.

Steven Tyson, Mecaplast’s general manager, said the expansion was a massive boost.

He said: “We expect to have about 170 people, which means a net gain of around 80 jobs thanks to these investments, as well supporting many others.

“This is an enormous investment for a business of this size and we see it as the pay-off for some years of hard work in very uncertain times when we continued on improving our performance and supporting our customers.

“That convinced them to place orders with us for some important new vehicles.

“To be sustainable we must be competitive, and winning these additional contracts will help us secure the medium and hopefully long-term future of the business.

“The nature of our are products is that they are quite large and don’t lend themselves easily to long distance shipping.

“We therefore have an advantage being based near clients, with Nissan key to that.”

Mecaplast supplies parts to other car makers including Toyota and Renault and now has 15 injection moulding machines running on a five-day three-shift production pattern.

Paul Varley, NElep board and investment panel member, said: “Mecaplast is an important part of the Nissan supply chain and by providing the £1.9m investment towards its increased production, we are supporting jobs at the car maker and the supplier.

“The automotive industry is a key employer in the region and we applaud Nissan’s decision to award large contracts to a fellow North-East firm, keeping the money in the regional economy and creating more and better jobs.”