NISSAN has handed council bosses half a car to thank the authority for giving its near 7,000-strong workforce the freedom of Sunderland.

The car maker presented Sunderland City Council leader, Councillor Harry Trueman, with the half Leaf, the manufacturer's electric hatchback, which is made at its Wearside plant.

The council plans to display the model in the Sunderland Museum and Winter Gardens, where it will sit alongside the first Nissan Bluebird that came off the company's North-East production line in 1986.

However, before it goes to the museum, the Leaf cross-section will be located at the Institute for Automotive and Manufacturing Advanced Practice at the University of Sunderland, where automotive and engineering students will be able to study its inner workings.

The Leaf has been made at Sunderland for European markets since 2013, with the new second generation now rolling off the production line.

The new Leaf is Europe’s fastest-selling electric vehicle with sales above 19,000.

Cllr Trueman said: “We’re delighted to accept this fascinating model.

"It reflects the innovation, investment and phenomenal success that hallmarks the Nissan Sunderland plant."

Nissan’s Sunderland plant makes the Qashqai, Juke and Infiniti-branded Q30 and QX30 models alongside the Leaf.

However, it is now ramping up work to make a next generation Qashqai and bring production of the X-Trail to the region.

Kevin Fitzpatrick, Nissan's European divisional vice-president for manufacturing, said: “Building the Leaf and being awarded the Freedom of the City are two significant moments in the plant’s history.

“So when we were looking for a gesture to say thank you to the city council and the people of Sunderland for the support they have given us over the past 30 years, it made perfect sense to combine the two.”