A PIPE making firm, supplying parts for the world's first mass market electric car, has created ten jobs after a £500,000 investment.

Argus Powerbend manufactures tubular seat frames for the Nissan Leaf, which is being made in the North-East at the Japanese firm's Sunderland plant.

The company makes hydraulic pipelines, medical equipment and parts for tractors, trucks and construction machines, and is also producing tubes for Nissan's new Note model.

Founded in 1978 as Dunlop Powerbend, Sunderland-based Argus, which employs about 100 people, says it is now flourishing after being hit hard by the recession in 2008.

Bosses say its already strong order book has been bolstered further after securing deals with companies including Caterpillar, JCB and John Deere, across Europe, Brazil and India.

It has now signed a contract with German-based Dura Automotive Systems, through tractor and combine harvester maker John Deere, that will see its laser-cutting team make tube sections for joysticks and levers on forestry machinery.

Johan Swanepoel, Argus' quality engineering director, said the firm had experienced a strong start to the year, after overcoming previous difficulties.

He said: “We have secured new orders from customers in addition to our existing contracts, which is excellent news and means we can look to expand our workforce to meet increased demand.

“January and February were exceptionally good, but March and April have been even busier, and that is down to a lot of hard work by everyone involved.

“Our workforce is incredible, and even during 2008, when we were all feeling the pain of recession, they fully supported the management team.

“We have grown year-on-year since then, through a big export drive and winning customers, such as Caterpillar Brazil, JCB and Nissan replacement models.”

Mr Swanepoel said the firm had been supported by Sunderland City Council's business investment team, who helped the company with property and lease deals.

Councillor Paul Watson, council leader, said: “Argus is a great example of why this region leads the UK in exports.

“It's manufacturing expertise and its ability to win new contracts, including Brazil and India, has seen its customer base grow and it is now working with world-leading companies and bringing new investment and jobs to Sunderland.”